On May 16, the council of the Municipality of North Perth held a housing forum for councillors to learn more about the housing situation regionally, locally, and provincially. No council business was able to be advanced as it was for the purpose of education and training and only half of council was able to attend the meeting. 

“We have quite a power lineup, I think, for our education and training,” Mayor Todd Kasenberg began. 

First off, Director Kim McElroy from the City of Stratford, Social Services Department began talking about the housing spectrum. 

“We deal with everything from unsheltered to home ownership… our goal is to move people through the housing spectrum and advance it,” McElroy stated. 

The role of the social services department works on homelessness prevention and housing stability services. It has proactive outreach to unsheltered individuals and provide basic needs and financial support. 

The greatest growth has been in North Perth at 18 per cent, followed by Stratford at 6.0 per cent. As for population distribution, Stratford is the largest at 33,235 people and North Perth is the second largest at 15,540. The proportion of persons living in low income based on the low-income measure in North Perth was 9.0 per cent, a decrease from 10 per cent in 2016. 

The department then looked at a snapshot of households in North Perth, with the majority being detached homes making up 70.2 per cent of dwellings. The largest household composition is two persons at 37.1 per cent, then one person at 25 per cent. North Perth also has a higher amount of renters compared to other municipalities within Perth County. 

In North Perth, 71 per cent of households own their home, while 28.7 per cent rent theirs. This is a similar trend to places with a larger population, such as Stratford. As for types of housing, the highest unit demand would be for a one bedroom rental unit. 

Next, the department’s presentation tackled the topic of homelessness in the area. As of Dec. 31, 2022 there were 129 households experiencing homelessness in Perth County, with the majority being male single adults. Ninety-three per cent of these people are experiencing chronic homelessness, meaning their length of homelessness was over six months. At any given time, there are under five individuals sleeping rough in North Perth. 

The department’s first strategic objective is ending homelessness, which includes shifting resources and service provision from managing to ending homelessness, with a focus on chronic homelessness. The second strategic objective is creating attainable housing options. They are looking for local municipalities to identify attainable housing as a priority in their strategic plans. The third strategic objective is sustaining community housing, by ensuring that existing community housing stock is well maintained and continues to play a key role in the delivery of housing. The final objective, it looks at addressing a diversity of needs, which requires providing a broad range of services and supports that reflect the unique local landscape. 

The floor was then opened for questions following the presentation, where Mayor Kasenberg expressed his thanks, as well as his concerns for affordable housing in North Perth. He also noted the vast difference between private landlords’ rent prices compared to affordable housing. 

Next, Jennifer Richardson, real estate broker, looked at local housing real estate market trends. She spoke to the private sector and the real estate market. There are currently 70 active listings in Listowel. 

“Which is not a lot, because there are a lot of buyers out there,” explained Richardson. 

In the previous 45 days leading up to the meeting, the market was one house sold every day, which worried Richardson as the municipality could run out of listings quickly. 

“We have 2.7 months of inventory, that means we are technically in what we considered a sellers’ market, ideally we would love to be in an equal market,” stated Richardson. 

The average prices for a home in North Perth vary depending on the type of house. The most expensive would be a single family detached home at $807,443. Previously, houses in the municipality have sold at far less; in 2011 the average price was $224,054 and in 2016 it was $313,506. She then looked at rental prices, which range from single-family house rental at $2,500-$3,000 to a one-bedroom apartment at $1,350-$1,550. 

“It’s quite expensive to rent here in North Perth,” stated Richardson. 

“What I’m concerned about frankly… Is how do our youth, how do our young people ever manage to afford that in the future?” questioned Mayor Kasenberg. 

“It’s a supply issue… I know the Province of Ontario is saying they are doing everything they can. Frankly they are not,” Coun. Allan Rothwell commented. 

Next to take the podium was Marty Rops from Libro Credit Union, who looked at the financing overview and trends. 

“I firmly believe that housing is the root of a lot of the challenges that we have. And if we can figure out a way to solve the housing problem, a lot of other things will fall into place,” explained Rops. He then looked at the interest rates in recent years and the changes in these trends. 

Mitchell Rhodes, from United Way Perth-Huron’s Community Renewal Company, then presented his report to the council members. 

He then talked about North Perth’s project development, specifically with the North Perth Public Library’s planned affordable housing and access centre. 

“In my mind, this is a fantastic project!” continued Rhodes. 

Then, the Perth County Planning Department did a housing presentation that covered a wide array of topics including news from the updated Official Plan timeline.

“Within our Official Plan, we’re going to be outlining some of the new language around housing, we’re going to be setting targets for intensification, we’re going to be talking about density and policy around density, and we’re also setting about the growth areas for our communities focusing on our service settlement areas of Listowel, Atwood, Millverton, Mitchell and Shakespeare. So that’s why the Official Plan is important to this conversation, ” said Sally McMullen, manager of planning services. 

Finally, Jessica McLean, manager of North Perth’s Strategic Initiatives Department, provided a housing presentation and next steps. 

“The purpose of my presentation is to review the work that has been completed and or initiated in recent years by the municipality related to housing, and highlights some upcoming funding opportunities,” explained McLean. 

She then said a report will be brought to a council meeting at a later date to give direction on next steps. McLean did an overview of the housing work plan in North Perth and updates on the municipality’s corporate strategic plan. 

“Improved housing diversity and density was a priority in the previous strategic plan through the various consultation activities that have been done to date, housing affordability and attainability has been voiced as one of the key issues that the updated plan should provide strategic direction on,” said McLean. 

“It’s actually kind of humbling when we look at some of the things that have been achieved, and yet we know there is work to be done. And I think this council is up to that,” expressed Mayor Kasenberg. 

“Bit by bit I think working together within our community, I think we can move forward,” ended Coun. Rothwell.

By Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 02, 2023 at 07:20

This item reprinted with permission from   Listowel Banner   Listowel, Ontario

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