Ryan's Blog

Affordable Housing Debate

Following a Notice to Motion from July 8th City of Belleville Council Meeting, a motion to create an affordable housing loan program will be debated by council on Monday.

The spirit of the motion is to use reserve funds from the City of Belleville to create $25,000 0% interest loans spread over 15 years to create affordable rental units at 80% of market rent in the City.

The motion on the floor, moved by Councillor Williams

“Whereas we have identified a Housing Crisis affecting rental units; and Whereas there was a motion passed at the Housing Summit to create 1000 new affordable rental units by 2025. Be it resolved to create a secondary suites/affordable rental unit program starting Jan 1, 2020 that we create up to 50 secondary suites and units/year over 5 years that offer affordable market rent at 80% of market rent, creating 250 of the 1000 units for affordable renal from a motion made at the Housing Summit with the following options for approval. Either 1. Ontario Renovates funding 2. City Loans – 15 years – up to $25,000 from reserves/loan AND/OR a loan from CMHC of $350,000 from the Seed Funding Program at 0% interest.”

Councillor Williams is prepared to debate an amendment to the motion that would implement a pilot to the program for a more successful delivery of the program in the midst of a city CIP Creation.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis, a serious rental unit shortage in the City,” states Councillor Ryan Williams. “We did have a successful Housing Summit, and we have identified several strategies to tackle the problems we see, including working with Hastings County, and the city developing an Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP). We expect this to be completed, on the City’s end, at the end of the year. One of the programs I’ve advocated for, is the incentive to see more secondary units created in homes. What this program I’m submitting for debate does, that is different from other municipalities, is that it looks at incentives of loans, instead of grants, for units, and not just secondary units but any unit that could be made into affordable housing. I’m prepared to amend the motion to start with a pilot, to feather this program in, as the CIP is developed, to ensure that we have the right processes in place by the City, for a full implementation in 2020. We need to get to work on the matters that matter, and deal with the things we can deal with today.”

The City had set a target of 1000 new affordable rental units created by 2025. Although this program would be ambitious, it would at its maximum, only target 250 or the 1000 units, or 50 units a year.

The pilot partnership would include the Quinte Home Builders Association, a co-chair of the Housing Summit held in March.

As per QHBA: “The QHBA is delighted to hear that the City of Belleville is considering a pilot program to address housing. The Association and its membership believe in increasing housing supply to address affordability as we provided in this year’s Housing Summit and we are committed to continued partnerships and efforts to address this issue in our Region.”

It also would be at minimal cost to taxpayers. Each $25,000 loan, as proposed, would come from city reserves that currently sit in bank accounts at low-interest bearing revenue of around 2.5%. The money would be loaned, and then retained over a 15-year period. The cost, then, is interest revenue lost from sitting in an account, plus staff administration of the program. For $25,000, for 1 year, that cost could be as little as $575 plus administration, and would decrease every year the loan was returned. The loan, additionally, could be placed on the tax bill for the property improved, therefore, the risk associated with the loan could be minimized.

“Affordable housing is going to take a whole slew of different efforts to fix, and this is just one idea of many that will be put forth as this issue is tackled. This is a very small piece of a very large puzzle. This is a problem that is spread throughout Ontario and Canada and we need to start thinking outside the box to come up with different ideas, because what has been done in Ontario and Canada are not enough. We need to come up with new innovative ideas, things that have not been done before, in order to be progressive with this issue, that is rapidly growing. Loyalist College, for instance, is looking at an increase of international students in September, who will need rental housing.”

A recent report called Unaccommodating lists the perils of affordable housing in Canada. It is going to take many different efforts, from many different angles.

Belleville City Council starts at 4pm on Monday, August 12, in Council Chambers, Belleville City Hall.