Renfrew – Renfrew town council is making an application for federal government funding to address the dire straits of affordable housing in the community of 8,100 residents.

During its June 27 regular meeting, a delegation led by Tim Welch of Tim Welch Consulting, reported on its findings in relation to the preparation of a grant to access the funding. As he addressed council via video link, Mr. Welch outlined some of the immediate and long-term goals. 

“We will return in August with an update on the financial aspect and we are also preparing an Attainable Housing Action Plan that will increase both rental and ownership housing by using town lands to create affordable and attainable housing,” he began. “It will include costing and implementation dates for action by council immediately, as well as some medium-term actions. We will also prepare an application for the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.”

The fund, which was projected to be accessed through an online portal by the end of June, will allow municipalities to apply using previous studies like the one completed by his firm. To date, some preliminary work has been completed.

“We have conducted eight interviews with key community stakeholders from the town, County of Renfrew and the business community,” he said. “We held focus groups on May 24th with 10 attendees representing broad stakeholder groups, the county and town staff and just yesterday (June 26) we met with front line community organizations and persons with lived or living experience.”

Among his findings that will influence the application are:

– 55 percent of households earn less than $60,000 per annum (35 percent in Ontario);

– Renfrew has a notably higher number of rental households than the provincial average of 32 percent; 

– Housing costs are simply unaffordable for those making minimum wage or in receipt of ODSP, etc.;

“There is an acute need for affordable housing for seniors, supportive housing, affordable one or two bedrooms and home ownership,” he said.

He said the new Accelerator Fund is available for communities to support the redevelopment of new housing that is close to amenities through public and active transportation and to support affordable, accessible and to support greater inclusion of diverse socio-economic communities. It is also set up for community development in light of changing climate conditions. 

Two areas of town that are targeted under this fund are 436 Lisgar Avenue (Highway 132 near Ma-te-way) and Gibbons Road, which is located near the Days Inn Hotel behind the Canadian Tire store on O’Brien Road.

Other sites identified include 785 O’Brien Road, adjacent to the Knights of Columbus Park near the fairgrounds.

Mr. Welch said the federal government has indicated that any approved applications would be processed by September and sent back to approved municipalities for final approval or amendments.

Council Response

Councillor Jason Legris inquired as to the suitability of 436 Lisgar Avenue if the application is approved.

CAO Robert Tremblay said that site is relatively low in terms of housing priorities.

“The land at 436 was originally purchased for the purpose of building a new public works building,” he said. “Our current building will be reviewed and if it is near the end of its life cycle, which most staff would agree is not too far off, then staff will review our options. Staff may look at other ways to maintain the current building, but in terms of what lands we have available for housing, staff is currently looking at numerous sites if we are successful.”

He added all lands were explored in terms of needs assessment including location, distance to services and what amenities are nearby.

Reeve Peter Emon asked why the town should be involved in housing.

“This is not my view, but some will argue as to why the town council should be involved if the market will eventually even out and why not let the market take control?” he asked.

Mr. Welch said over one million people arrived in Canada in 2022 and the demand will only increase as the number of supply units shrinks. He added that from an economic development point of view, it is better for a small town like Renfrew to have a supply of affordable housing to attract new businesses and residents.

He concluded by informing council he will return in August with a report containing options for affordable housing and a draft financial outline of the town’s fiscal responsibilities

By Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 13, 2023 at 13:40

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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