Letter to the editor – Habitat for Humanity

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Dear Editor,

I want to make a few comments on an article titled, “Habitat for Humanity build moving ahead”, by Hilary Thompson in the Feb. 12 issue of the Times.

1) I’d like to know how council has determined that this .52 acres of valuable land is surplus to the requirements of the municipality? Where is the debate, discussion and input from the public? Is there an independent board yet for the college and if so, does it have a comprehensive plan for its development? Is giving the land away the best way to help with the affordable housing problem?

2) Why would council not want to inform the public of the value of what is being given away to a few lucky new homeowners? What does this say to people who strive and work hard to have their own property without the advantage of council giving them their land?

3) Are the new owners of these units going to be able to afford the property taxes?

4) I find it interesting that the municipality wants to “mitigate costs” and “avoid delaying the build”. Are the municipality’s relentless increases in property taxes that are far above inflation an example of mitigating costs? What about the massive increases in development fees, especially in the rural area, which now amount to over $10,000 for a rural home? What about the ridiculously high building permit costs in the thousands of dollars that every new homeowner has to pay? What about the excessive restrictions, costs and delays in land severances that limit the available land to build on, thereby driving up the costs of housing?

5) It is tragic and short sighted that the Wynne Liberal government decided to allow the closure of this college. The taxpayers of this municipality paid good money for the college and certainly didn’t buy it so that our council could give it away. I guess council thinks this is a charity donation. I don’t know why they would think this, as it isn’t their personal property they’re giving away. If the council wants to be charitable, they could use their public media pulpit to organise voluntary fundraising to pay for this project, and start it off by waiving their pay for a year or two. A new councillor and the new mayor of Ogdensburg, New York have waived their salaries of $3500 and $7000 respectively to help deal with the town’s financial crisis. An example of public service, not self enrichment. I’ve read recently in the times that the North Grenville council and Mayor want to increase their pay.

6) What has caused this crisis in affordable housing?

I) Income: Low availability of jobs that pay well. Excessively taxing worker’s pay. The devaluing of work and savings through central bank debasement of the currency.

II) Costs: A) Government imposed costs and regulations that distort the efficient building and managing of housing such as high development fees, high property taxes, rent controls, and the landlord and tenant act.

B) Affordable land is not available due to government restrictions on severances and development, complicated zoning rules, and excessive and disproportionate public infrastructure investment in urban areas, especially a few large cities. Even in North Grenville, there is a large and disproportionate investment of public money (i.e. your taxes) in Kemptville as compared to the rural areas.

I have long admired President Jimmy Carter’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity, and I support the organisation, as long as it remains a charity and does not get involved in participating in a political process that involves the give away of public property to private ownership, especially property that the taxpayers of this municipality very recently paid for.

Why not sell the college back to the province and they can use it to build affordable housing? Yes, the province has severe financial limitations, but they have many more funding resources than the municipality. For example, they could trim some of the salaries, benefits, and pensions of sunshine list public servants and re-allocate the saved money to affordable housing.

Stephen Hammond

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