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Jun. 20, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
Town of NOTL to address affordable housing
Niagara Regional Housing has one complex in NOTL. (Christina Manocchio/Niagara Now)

Affordable housing is coming a hot topic in cities and towns across Canada.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Association of Realtors reports that the average home in Niagara-on-the-Lake costs just under $700,000 as of November 2018, which is above the $409,000 average in the Niagara region.

Niagara Regional Housing has one subsidized rental housing available in NOTL. The property charges its tenants 30 per cent of their monthly income, or up to the maximum market rental amount depending on their financial situation. The average wait list length for Niagara Regional Housing stands at 5,500 applicants, and can range from a three-and-a-half year to a 16 year wait for a unit.

Currently, the unit in NOTL has a six-and-a-half year wait, and is only available for those who are over 55 years-of-age.

“The need for multi-residential development is great,” said Donna Woiceshyn, CEO of Niagara Regional Housing.

“We have people who are getting better jobs and are doing better who are living in affordable housing, but they can’t move out because there is no place to go.”

“The market is so bad right now because of the vacancy rate being so low. People are struggling to find units to rent, we’re struggling to find landlords to partner with to come into our program.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) reported that the St. Catharines-Niagara region has a rental vacancy rate of 2.5 per cent as of October 2018.

Niagara Rental Housing speculates that the vacancy rates increased due to new luxury developments in the Niagara region, not affordable housing units.

Affordable housing is a concern for Glendale resident Amarjog Johal.

Johal had advocated for housing to remain affordable for Niagara College students. The Glendale Task Force proposed implementation of a long-term rental bylaw due to alleged Niagara College students living in rowdy, unkempt homes.

The long-term rental bylaw would include a fee for every unit, explained Johal. With this, Johal fears that rents will increase, making housing unaffordable and causing students to move further away from Niagara College.

“If you discourage rentals, where are these people going to go?” said Johal.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said the town is planning on keeping the rental licencing fee low, which landlords can write off on their taxes. "A licensing system would help us ensure that people living in the house were living in safe conditions, that absentee landlords would be registered so we know who to call if there is an issue and make them accountable for property standards. What we can do as a municipality is help with trying to find additional parking and provide educational information on what services are available in the community," Disero said.

Corks and Orzo owner, Maria Mavridis, has faced challenges when finding an affordable home close to Niagara-on-the-Lake. She said about 85 per cent of her staff live in Virgil or St. David’s, but can’t afford homes close to downtown NOTL.

“We grew up here, we want to raise out families here. It’s getting harder and harder,” said Mavridis.

The Wellness Committee is set to look into wellness in NOTL, which includes affordable daycare and housing.

The final draft of NOTL Official Plan states that the municipality plans to monitor affordable housing to “meet the needs of households unable to find adequate housing through the private market.”

The Official Plan also acknowledges the shortage of rental housing in NOTL, and outlines recommendations and policies to improve or maintain current affordable housing.

The completion of the Official Plan has no set date, but a public open house will be planned in mid-February. During this open house, the Official Plan information will be provided for public review.

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