Local Realtor Wendy Embleton has a different perspective on affordable housing. As a commercial property specialist, she sees the issue from a business perspective, and believes that the focus on affordable housing has been misguided and will lead to unintended consequences.
“We need to take the blinders off and look at the big picture,” Wendy told the Times. “I support affordable housing, but not this way.”
Wendy is referencing the local policies that suggest a 25% affordable housing requirement for new developments. She feels that the policy is vague and difficult to work with – even as a professional in the industry. “We have development options for Reuben Crescent that have been faced with controversy in front of Council,” said Wendy, talking about the apartments planned for the former site of Kemptville Public School. “While I do appreciate the concern, I am also flabbergasted that homeowners recent to the community weren’t aware there may be development in the downtown core. As an owner of property in the downtown core, I welcome foot traffic and community development.”
Wendy is firm in her assertion that housing affordability is an economic problem, not a community issue. She feels that standards of living have slipped because of poor federal and provincial policies, and that local government affordable housing policies across the country are nothing more than “lipstick on a pig” to cover up the problem. Supporting developers in building new housing will increase the housing supply, thereby reducing housing cost naturally, without the need for mandates that create uncertainty for landlords and hardship for business owners.
Affordable housing policies affect the amount of new builds and the supply of housing, Wendy says. “The cost of construction does not change when developers tell their subcontractors or their suppliers that up to twenty five percent of their construction is being regulated by affordable housing,” added Wendy. “The lenders financing this construction are taking a risk as well as the company, and in some cases the subcontractors have to pay out of pocket for their supplies and their staff and wait.”
Local developers don’t bring in “millions” from their developments. They invest a massive amount of time, resources and risk into each project. In many cases, they also keep the community alive by providing the tax revenue base that pays for the needs of the community. Wendy used the example of the proposed indoor recreational facility, which can’t be justified if there are not enough people in North Grenville to use it and pay for it.
Another example Wendy referenced is the negativity she received online after one of her commercial listings for a property on Van Buren Street was put online. “This property is going to be the new home for many new businesses coming into our community which will be providing jobs,” she said. “Jobs bring value. We cannot continue the rapid growth in North Grenville without providing the ability for those who are here to pay their bills. It is sad seeing our young people move to other communities because they cannot find work and afford to live here. It is sad when our volunteer base is depleting because we don’t have enough individuals who are investing in the culture of the community, since they are required to commute to work and do not have the time at the end of the day.”
Wendy emphasizes that developments don’t cost the taxpayer money. In fact, development charges help to improve the community. For example, when a developer must pay to upgrade municipal water and sewer infrastructure as part of their build, this upgraded infrastructure becomes a municipal asset at little to no cost to the taxpayer.
“As a taxpayer, I am very much looking forward to seeing our tax base grow,” said Wendy. “Strategic growth is a good thing. Our planning department is doing their job in planning. I have been told ‘no’ more times than I have gotten the green light, and I for one appreciate that. At least one of my children has made Kemptville home. I am invested in his being able to make a valuable future here.”
So what is the solution? Wendy acknowledges that affordable housing is important, but she asserts that it must come from federal and provincial policies, instead of driving away growth by putting it on developers. Can we expect such change any time soon? Not likely, but we can certainly talk more openly about it, and keep the wheels of policy discussion turning.