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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Arch-i-text: Let’s get creative
Brian Marshall
Brian Marshall (Supplied)

Spurred by the housing crisis that has fully blossomed over the past few years, during the last couple of weeks I have attempted to present an argument for a co-ordinated address based on public/private co-operation.

In Jan. 13th’s Arch-i-text, Wartime Housing Limited was cited as an example of what Canadians were able to accomplish under much more challenging conditions to create affordable housing.

Last week’s column visited Martha’s Vineyard, a jurisdiction that parallels Niagara-on-the-Lake in size, population, demographics, economy, and is facing the same housing issues. I focused on the Island Housing Trust as an example of what is being done.

I cannot stress strongly enough that this country faces a true crisis in affordable housing. 

Today I listened to a radio interview with a GTA real estate broker who stated that, in the last two years, they have not had a single property listing that was not sold in multiple offers. In some cases there were up to 100 offers.

A second pundit suggested that in this market, if you wanted to successfully purchase a home, it was necessary to throw any buyer caution to the wind because the supply was so far under demand.

And, for those NOTLers who have not had to be the “Bank of Mom & Dad” and think this is not our problem, I beg to differ.

Our restaurants (think up to an executive chef), our wineries, our orchards, our town infrastructure, and every other service we call upon is completely dependent on employees who simply cannot afford (or find) housing in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Have you tried to engage the services of an in-home personal support worker or para-medical service recently?

From personal experience (both before and during COVID), I can simply say, “Good Luck” – because it just isn’t there.

So, if you want to enjoy your “golden years,” I’d suggest this issue is very definitely your concern.

All that said, just what could be done?

Recently, I learned that the federal government is looking to divest itself of three pieces of “surplus” land in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Combined, the land totals 25.5 acres.

Perhaps with proper negotiation at the federal level, this land could serve as the basis for a land trust upon which to build affordable housing?

Incorporating a non-profit in Ontario costs peanuts, less than $400.

This town has a wealth of retired, semi-retired and active resident expertise.

There are architects, urban planners, builders, and business people of every stripe, who may, if properly approached, be willing to contribute their time, talents and experience to an undertaking that will ensure their community continues to be able to provide the services necessary to maintain a viable town.

Canadian businesses could be solicited for contributions in the form of cash or materials as tax-deductible donations or, failing that, for provision of materials at cost in return for marketing opportunities.

A partnership might be developed with a finance institution (Niagara-based Meridian Credit Union comes to mind) as a platform for buyer mortgaging.

And, of course, both town and regional governments would need to be on board to oversee permits, inspections and transit planning/execution.

To be clear, I am not proposing publicly funded housing but rather affordable housing. In other words, housing that can be offered for sale at a price that young families can actually afford AND service the debt on.

In return, all of us get to enjoy the benefits.