by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
North Grenville residents who rent their homes are struggling to find and keep their rentals.
Not only is demand for rentals in the area on the rise, but landlords are selling rental properties to cash in on high property value. Renters across North Grenville, and in fact across Eastern Ontario, are facing an overall lack of available properties, and those that are available are often over-priced or snatched up on a first-come-first-served basis.
When Mayor Nancy Peckford was elected as Mayor, she already knew that the rental market in North Grenville was minimal, and would thus pose an ongoing challenge to residents and to council. But, especially because of changes in the market, Mayor Peckford says, “It’s gone from a significant challenge to a full blown crisis.”
In 2019, Mayor Peckford launched the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing “as a means of identifying priority short-term and longer-term objectives, and implementation strategies aimed at advancing affordable housing availability and options for the residents of North Grenville.”
In September of 2020, an 11-unit affordable housing complex was unveiled through collaboration of the Task Force and Community Living North Grenville.
Today, in light of the recommendations made by the Task Force, the municipality is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build up to fifteen homes that, “would provide a pathway to affordable home ownership to fifteen families in our community.”
The project has yet to officially launch, but it is expected to do so in August.
Further, Kevlar Developments is slated to build up to eighty rental units, and in partnership with the Municipality, 18% of those units will be deemed affordable housing units. Mayor Peckford also anticipates a presentation to council later this summer for a secondary suites strategy.
This strategy would simplify creating secondary residences on a property in the hopes of generating more rental opportunities.
The situation in North Grenville is such that affordability is not the only issue faced by renters. The crisis is in basic availability.
I spoke with Jessica Savard, who moved back to North Grenville from Ottawa three years ago in order to be closer to extended family and friends. Her growing family of three were given sixty days notice by their current landlords.
“Ever since then,” says Jessica, “every day we’ve been looking, we think we find a house, and then there’s like three hundred other people contacting for the same house. There are just no rentals anymore. It’s been a horrible time. Literally hundreds of people want the same house to rent when you do come across something.”
Time is ticking for Jessica and her family, and they have begun to consider last resort options, which include living in a local hotel, moving in with Jessica’s parents, or moving back to Ottawa. The situation, Jessica explained, is “extremely stressful.”
Mayor Peckford has heard stories like Jessica’s many times. She said, “If you were looking at a rental, forget about it being an affordable one, you didn’t have a lot of choices. And now some of your choices don’t even exist anymore. Coming out of the Affordable Housing Task Force was the goal that the Municipality work in partnership with the public and not-for-profit sectors, as well as private developers, to ensure a range of rental opportunities.”
Unfortunately, all of these plans take time. And many members of our community are desperately in need of immediate housing.
Mayor Peckford said that, “It is incredibly painful to see how much time it takes…We’ve been working really hard on this, but it’s slow and it got worse as we were trying to make it better. The problem has gotten significantly worse in a very short period of time.”
The only solution is innovation. Mayor Peckford indicated that the Salvation Army is working on a pilot project with North Grenville local Dwight Brown.
Check back next week for more information.