LETTER: Affordable housing metrics must be determined

Dear Jason,

Last week, developer David Cleave warned Council that his Talbot On The Trail project may be the last foreseeable affordable housing project in PEC given soaring market and overall housing costs.

Indeed, the average price of a home in The County in 2015 was $340k, next year it will be closer to $650k. Based on 12 months of MLS data and ReMax Canada statistics, our housing price increase year over year for 2019-2020 was in the 40 per cent range! And vacant Picton building lots (alone) are going for about $175k today.

Not coincidentally, also last week, Councillor Phil St. Jean gave wise notice of a forthcoming Horseshoe motion to address this ongoing housing crisis. How do we define and determine affordability in PEC? The province looks at 80 per cent or less of average market rent.

Federal bodies, like our Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC), see it as 30 per cent or less of gross household income. But do these “affordability” definitions make sense given our specific market conditions and a median PEC household income of roughly $70k? Not likely, especially when current CMHC data suggests “average market rents” 22-32% per cent behind our market reality, e.g.

CMHC claims a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,008 per month in The County when today’s true market rent averages $1,288.¬† Plus it doesn’t help that CMHC data, while more current than Census Canada, is only updated every two years. Fortunately, Shire Hall and Council established the not-for-profit Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation (PECAHC) in 2018; and brought on the highly-skilled Chuck Dowdall as Executive Director in August 2020. PECAHC’s mandate is to “increase the supply of affordable housing in PEC in cooperation with community stakeholders and developers”. In 2018, “PEC Vital Signs”, researched and published by The County Foundation, detailed that due to housing unaffordability, young families, lower income residents, and many seniors were leaving; that prospective County employees simply can’t afford to live here; that STA’s were negatively impacting affordability; and that we faced a worrying trend of escalating and “invisible” rural homelessness.

This is the stuff that corrodes a local economy, creates social division, damages long-term sustainability, and rips at the fabric of community. We must have Councillor St. Jean’s urgent conversation, we must address Mr. Cleave’s breathtaking metrics, and we must support Mr. Dowdall & PECAHC’s vital mandate… for example with the municipality facilitating builds on vacant community/declared surplus lands and intensifying funding advocacy at senior levels of government. Together can do this but it requires a profound community heart-to-heart and solid consensus, accurate data driven models and an efficient, effective public-private partnership.

Time presses.

Sincerely,

Bill Roberts Councillor – Sophiasburgh (Ward 6)