Realtors tackling housing shortage
By Jenn Watt
A regional housing task force comprised of realtors from Parry Sound, Orillia, Muskoka and Haliburton County intends to lobby for changes to government legislation that hinders the creation of all types of housing.
Launched in the fall of 2018, the group includes local real estate agents Andrew Hodgson and Karen Nimigon, and is organized by The Lakelands Association of Realtors, a non-profit industry group made up of realtors from cottage country.
“Locally, we’ve just started this committee, but our hopes are to look at things such as zoning, how we can allow more secondary apartments …. We’d like to see more duplexes, triplexes allowed on properties,” Hodgson said.
“If you start looking in Haliburton County, there’s a lot of rules against extra accommodations, even apartments above garages.”
He said he and Nimigon already have informal relationships with municipal councillors, who agree that more needs to be done. The province has indicated it’s looking at loosening rules, which could allow for fewer restrictions on housing.
Another issue for cottage country is the impact of new buyers moving up from the city.
“Over the last number of years we have found more and more that finding suitable housing has become a greater challenge as our local centres grapple with housing shortages across the board. One factor that has had a particularly strong effect in recent years is homeowners cashing out of the city and moving north,” said Chuck Murney, chair of the task force.
Murney said that realtors cannot change the rules themselves, but can bring people together to have discussions about improving regulations, sharing success stories from other regions.
“An example that is being explored in some communities is the adjustment of bylaws or zoning requirements that are restrictive when it comes to garden suites and secondary units,” he said.
“Adjusting these requirements can help with affordability and provide more rental units. Another that we are advocating for is the lessening of the length of time and the amount of ‘red-tape’ to cut through in order to get a new development project off the ground. Any major developer will tell you that the timeline is excessive, measuring in years rather than months. The lobbying of appropriate government bodies to reduce these time delays is in all of our communities’ best interests.”
Although there are no rental vacancy rates available for Haliburton County, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation rental market survey shows vacancy rates below one per cent for the last two years in City of Kawartha Lakes.
The 2019 Housing and Homelessness Assessment Report issued by the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County states: “An aging population and smaller households, along with an overwhelming reliance on single detached homes for housing in our area is contributing to a very low vacancy rate for rental units. This is driving rental costs upward at a pace even greater than inflation and putting added financial pressures on renters especially.”
Hodgson points out that the county needs all types of housing, which has a “trickle down” effect on other housing. When someone moves into the condos in Haliburton village, for example, that opens units at Parklane Apartments.
The waiting list for subsidized housing had 1,700 households listed as of December of 2018. The average wait time is between three to five years.
“In previous years, the only solution to housing, everyone [would say the] government building housing,” Hodgson said. “The private sector will do it, but you’ve got to get the cost down. You’ve got to allow them to do it.”