Editorial: Affordability hits home

Housing affordability has become an important issue impacting citizens living here, and those who might wish to move to South Dundas. For the past two years, the cost of home ownership in South Dundas has become more expensive, strongly outpacing wage and job growth for the area. Even as a bedroom community for commuters, affordability and supply in South Dundas are lacking.

This mirrors what neighbouring communities are reporting as well. Recently the City of Cornwall identified housing availability and high price as hindrances in growing that community. Any type of home availability plus the rising cost of rental housing adds to this issue.

According to Statistics Canada in 2016, 47 per cent of tenants in Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry spend more than 30 per cent of their monthly income on rent. Add in the high cost of utilities in rural areas, and an ever-increasing affordability gap for renters is evident.

Compounding matters is the lack of actual rental units. The last major incentive program encouraging construction of rental housing was in the 1980’s. Thirty-plus years later, those original units are in need of renovation: but there is little incentive for property owners to do so. Changes over the years have made it difficult for property owners to see any return on investment for units they own.

Incentives from the federal and provincial governments have been meagre at best. The latest says that Ontario will now exempt new rental housing construction from rent control rules. That will do nothing to solve the problem of affordability.

Adding houses to the ownership market is relatively simple: build more houses. The new subdivision west of Morrisburg will assist in that effort. However more housing stock will not easily translate into adding more rental units. That problem requires solutions. Certainly a better scheme for creating more affordable rental units is needed.

Tie residential development agreements to a plan that also includes lower cost housing and rental units similar to arrangements in Ottawa or Kingston. Attract more good paying jobs to the community through commercial and industrial growth. Jobs that pay more than the minimum wage will increase the spending power of those working in South Dundas. Affordable housing is a vital component in the long-term success of any community. We need to offer people opportunities that help keep them here.

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