Vito Spatafora, Deputy Mayor
Richmond Hill Post City Magazine
Good housing is an essential component for a healthy sustainable community. Planning for a mix of affordable rental and ownership housing provides people an opportunity to live, work and play within their community through different stages of their lives. As of July 2012 the average home in York Region was valued at over $600,000 according to York Region News–a price range beyond the reach of an increasing number of people.
Rental housing provides an alternative to home ownership for people who don’t want the expense or responsibility and lower income people who cannot afford to buy a home. York Region has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the GTA dropping from 1.8% in 2009 to 0.8% in 2011. Ideally a 3.0% rental rate would be considered a healthy rental market that offers sufficient choice at reasonable rental prices. Furthermore, York Region has one of the lowest work/live ratios in the GTA forcing most low income people to commute long distances to work.
The rental housing market consists of the public sector and government housing projects. However, Provincial
policies on rent controls have discouraged private developers from building rental units. Furthermore, provincial and federal budget cut backs in funding new social housing projects has exacerbated the affordable housing crisis. Currently, York Region has about 7,100 social housing units for over 320,000 low income residents. The housing crisis will only worsen, since the Region’s population is expected to increase by 40% by 2031.
Low rental vacancy rate and a short supply of affordable rental units have resulted in a large and growing waiting list of people needing financial assistance to cover their rental costs. There were over 9,000 households on York Region’s social housing waitlist which represents about a 45% increase over the past 5 years. Approximately 80% of the applicants have an annual income below $30,000 of which an increasing number are seniors, youth and people with special needs.
York Region plans to add 831 new social housing rental units by 2014; but, this will not address the growing need throughout the Region. A collaborative effort is needed by all levels of government, community stakeholders, investors and private industry to find solutions. A mix of housing options can be achieved through effective housing policies, tax incentives and committed investments to avert the looming housing crisis.
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