When I was elected in 2018, we really didn’t have a coherent plan to develop affordable (rent-geared-to-income) housing. Brant County’s new mayor, David Bailey, had a similar concern.
It’s a serious problem in Brantford and Brant. At that time, there were 1,700 clients on the waiting list. For some people it can take 10 years to get to the top of the list.
We set up a Mayors Housing Task Force. The members produced an Affordable Housing Action Plan to create 500 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. Other units may also be built in partnership with community groups, charities and service clubs.
The total cost of the 500 municipal units will be about $110 million. The city will pay about $40 million, the county about $15 million. Ottawa and Queen’s Park will contribute, too.
What does “affordable housing” mean? In some cases, the rent for an affordable unit is set at about 30 per cent of the tenant’s income. The federal government says an affordable unit is one where the rent is less than 80 per cent of the average market rent.
The candidates for affordable housing are a cross-section of the community. It might be a family where both parents work, but at minimum wage. Seniors on fixed incomes can qualify. Some are people whose income comes from Ontario Works or disability payments. There are people in a homeless shelter or on the street who need a home and some counselling to get their lives in order.
The first project we did was 30 studio units at 5 Marlene Avenue. Some of the residents came from homeless encampments. In June, five residents who were about to “graduate” into regular housing told city council that living at Marlene Avenue transformed their lives.
There’s an exciting new project underway at 177 Colborne Street West. It will be a three-story building of 26 modular units built by a local company, ANC. Basically, they are tiny houses stacked on top of each other.
The city is buying about 26 former university residence units in Lucy Marco Place (the former YM-YWCA).
Brant County is building a 49-unit building on Trillium Way in Paris. In Brantford, we’re going to put up a 70-unit building on Shellard Lane. Both will be a mix of rent-geared-to-income and market rentals.
A lot of the money for the Shellard Lane building – close to $14 million – will come from the sale of 32-acres of the former Arrowdale golf course.
The Arrowdale land itself will be developed like any other neighbourhood with regular units such as townhouses or single-family homes. The property taxes collected on those units will be invested in future affordable housing projects elsewhere in the city. We estimate the revenue at $2 million to $3 million a year.
Using the money from Arrowdale means we can finance a large part of our housing plan without increasing property taxes.
Will it solve the problem? You can always do more. But we will be a lot further ahead than we were a few years ago when we set up the task force.
And hundreds more singles, seniors and families will have a place to call home.