By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith
In my travels across our riding, one of the most common concerns I hear from constituents, small businesses and community groups alike is about the lack of accessible and affordably priced homes. The issue has started to impact the livability, cohesion and health of our local communities and economies.
As we have seen in Parry Sound-Muskoka, growing demand coupled with severely constrained supply results in rising prices and a shortage of availability. Immediate and innovative solutions are required to rebalance the supply and demand dynamic in our housing sector. We must build more homes. That’s a fact that people across the riding know to be true.
Recently, the federal government announced it will boost immigration targets to 500,000 annual newcomers by 2025 – and many will settle in Ontario. Ontario is counting on these newcomers to support our labour force and grow the province – but we need to ensure there is enough housing to meet the growing demand.
That’s why our government is doubling down on our commitment to build 1.5-million homes in the next decade, including through the proposed More Homes Built Faster Act.
A report by the University of Ottawa’s Smart Prosperity Institute outlines estimated housing targets for 49 regions and although most of the demand is in the Greater Toronto Area, we will continue to see a rise in housing needs right here at home. The report’s target for Parry Sound is 3,200 new homes and 6,700 for Muskoka. That’s nearly 10,000 homes by 2031.
Simply put, that’s a lot.
We also must consider the type of housing that’s needed for residents and workers of all economic backgrounds. According to the Muskoka Community Foundation’s 2021 Vital Signs report, the average price of a non-waterfront home in Muskoka was over $630,000, but the median employment income sits at $33,600 (2021 census). Two of the major issues that came up when I was knocking on doors was either the inability for residents to afford a home, or the inability for businesses to retain labour because there just isn’t enough housing.
Both the Muskoka Housing Task Force and the Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board are trying to address this by focusing on the concept of attainable housing. Attainable housing consists of five pillars: adequate, appropriate, accessible, available and affordable. I am proud to say these groups are ahead of the game through the various support programs they already offer, like funding incentives for local developers and homeowners to build affordable homes and social housing. The More Homes Built Faster Act will give them additional support to further their attainable housing goals.
For example, the act would provide exemptions to certain developmental fees for affordable and inclusionary zoning units, select attainable housing units and non-profit housing developments like Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North. Residents and developers will also be allowed up to three units on a single residential lot without any amendments to municipal bylaws.
As the MPP for a riding that thrives on seasonal industries, such as tourism and construction, I know there’s a need for affordable rental units and more social housing as well. In Parry Sound, there are more than 400 residents waiting for social housing. In Muskoka, the waitlist is up to about 630 people.
Our government is hoping to work with the federal government on possible GST/HST incentives, including rebates, exemptions and deferrals, while also working with municipalities to explore reducing the current property tax burden on multi-residential apartment buildings.
This might all sound like doom and gloom, but I am proud to say there are many examples in which municipalities right across Parry Sound-Muskoka have been working tirelessly to solve the housing crisis already. This includes rent-geared to income housing on Ball’s Drive in Bracebridge or The Sound Community Hub in Parry Sound. With the help of our government, these municipalities will be able to take these steps further and faster.
I won’t tell you there’s one perfect solution. In fact, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark himself said that more work needs to be done to address the housing crisis. That’s why our government has promised an annual housing supply action plan for the next four years so that we continue to review and revamp our plan to meet the changing needs of our communities.
I’ll end by reiterating that housing is the foundation of society and the bedrock upon which a community can thrive. And, just as I did as mayor, I will continue to advocate for your right to build your foundation so you can thrive in the most beautiful place in Ontario.
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