Some ideas for affordable housing

August 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Sandy Brown

More and more Canadians are leaving the big city and the big mortgages behind to live a lifestyle that is simpler, less stressful, closer to community, more financially and environmentally responsible and not just live for their house.

Home ownership is instilled in us but has become out of reach for many as an increase in demand and lack of supply drive the price upwards. The average home in Orangeville for 2019 is just short of $560,000. Of course, you then have taxes, maintenance and utilities, adding up to more and more out of your paycheque and pricing moderate income residents out of the market;

Attainable housing is a cornerstone to a strong healthy community and allows generations to put down roots and stay when starting a new household, or seniors on fixed incomes to remain independent and age in place. When moderate income earners can spend less than 30% on housing, the entire community thrives’

Small Space Living

Largely featured south of the border, tiny homes, secondary suites and micro condos are featured on TV, in bookstores, magazines … just about everywhere, and it’s gaining ground in Canada. From relaxing restrictions to planning entire communities, B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes have embraced the idea of small-home living.

Currently in Orangeville, you can take advantage of this trend and apply for a permit to create a secondary suite on your property. Laneway suites, granny flats, condo-style apartments built on top of garages, all meet the needs of this minimalist lifestyle and can create a positive cash flow for the homeowner – or an independent living space for a loved one.

Toronto’s first micro condo development – typically no more than 350 sq. feet – is an affordable rental option within the city. Suites feature multipurpose furniture like desks that convert into beds, retractable countertops, smart kitchens and its emphasis on smart living has won several design awards. The market response to this new concept was exceptional, with over half of the units selling out immediately.

New Vision for Seniors Housing

Shared housing for seniors could be an effective way to provide independent living, financial security and keep aging minds healthy. Finding one or more peers to share the responsibility and expense of aging in place can increase the self-sufficiency of our seniors. A couple of years ago I was in a purpose built student housing apartment building in Guelph, where each unit had 4 bedrooms complete with their own washrooms. The bedrooms were attached to a common living/dining/kitchen – this type of arrangement could also work for independent living seniors looking to control their expenses.

Attainable housing provides more than a safe and financially secure roof over your head. It builds communities. Whether it’s a tiny home, secondary suite or micro condo, small space living means a minimalist lifestyle. Where a big house provides the opportunity for a home theatre, gym and other amenities, small space living does not.

Tracey Harris, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Cape Breton University, studied the tiny spaces movement and found that there was an increased usage of public amenities. With less clutter and space, more small living space residents use public amenities – they go to the library, gym, support local businesses and restaurants.

Small space living is not for everyone, however, many are adopting a minimalist lifestyle which offers significant cost savings.

Even closer to home, The Blue Mountains Attainable Housing Corporation (BMAHC) was established as a not-for-profit in January 2014. Its goal is to facilitate the supply of attainable housing for a larger portion of the community.

After creating two programs, a down payment assistance program and a grants program, BMAHC is now taking the first steps toward building its own housing stock, which the municipality would be responsible to oversee and collect rent on.

The Town of Whistler B.C. built housing for its tourism workers who could not afford the cost of local real estate. Whistler Housing controls the rents and bases rental rates on income and assets of each tenant – win, win, win for employers, tenants and the community. Check out for an eye-opening experience.

The Town of Orangeville owns 5 acres of lands on Townline, our former railyards. Wouldn’t that be a great location for the Town to create some affordable housing inventory and establish some additional public space for the south end community. Developers are interested in maximum yield of the land and profits – we need to stop waiting for that train that will never come. The Town has to take more of a leadership role in creating attainable housing units. Provincial and Federal governments are offering financial incentives and attractive loans to create more rental inventory’

Let me know your thoughts on attainable housing and what you want in your community. Reach out to me with your ideas and thoughts on attainable housing or drop in at the next Ice Cream and Chat coming up soon. 

Continue to provide your input; this Council is listening!


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