The housing crisis in North Grenville continues to be one of the primary problems for our municipality. At the Council meeting of September 15, Council dealt with a number of items pertaining to the issue: it is clear that it is taking the issue seriously, and that it wants action. Meanwhile, however, many North Grenville residents remain stranded without housing. Not least of all is former municipal employee Jim Gibson, who has been homeless for over three months now.
At the public meeting, Council received the Affordable Housing Strategy Implementation Plan for information purposes. The Strategy is informed by the recommendations brought forward by the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing. The Plan includes the development of an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, amending and updating several policy and zoning rules, and a commitment for ongoing monitoring and updating of affordable housing thresholds. Mayor Peckford stated that there is a “sense of urgency” in implementing the Plan, which was received by Council without much time for discussion: a more robust conversation is set to take place at the October 5 Council meeting.
Council also received a report to amend the Official Plan in order to allow greater opportunities for additional residential units. The implementation of a variety of housing opportunities across the Municipality is key in alleviating the housing crisis. Under the United Counties Official Plan, additional residential units are defined as second units. This limits the possibility for additional residential units on a property to just one additional unit, either within a principal dwelling or in an accessory structure. Adapting the language from “second unit” to “additional residential unit” will allow for more than one additional dwelling on any given residential property. Council has approved the amendment, but has to await approval from the United Counties before the change can be implemented.
Finally, Council approved the reallocation of funds from the Planning Reserve in order to fund the development of a Housing Strategy. This would be a general strategy, not specifically for affordable housing. Director of Planning and Development, Amy Martin, explained: “Affordable housing is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to housing.” Developing a broader housing strategy would “seek to create a toolkit that the Municipality can use to address all forms of housing across the housing continuum, such as emergency housing, transitional housing, and housing ownership.” Funds of $46,300 will be transferred from the Planning Reserve to cover the development of the Strategy, since this expense was not anticipated in the 2021 budget. The purpose of the Planning Reserve is, however, precisely to facilitate funding in situations such as this. Director Martin says that “there will be extensive public consultation built into this process.”