City councillors are helping make affordable housing more than just a pipe dream in Barrie.
They gave initial approval Monday night to a motion that would give a 50 per cent grant to upgrade water service — to as much as $5,000 — for new accessory suites that meet the city’s eligibility criteria for affordable housing.
Coun. Ann-Marie Kungl, who sits on Simcoe County’s affordable housing advisory committee, says she supports the motion because it is completely aligned to the city’s strategy aimed at creating more affordable housing units.
“(I) believe it is projected to help enable up to 10 accessory suite applications that would need to meet the affordable housing criteria at the time of application,” she said. “This grant facilitates providing appropriate water service needs and encourages the development of affordable accessory suites by reducing some of the financial cost to those considering this type of development.”
The water service upgrade would be within the municipal right-of-way to a one-inch diameter or larger, as required by the infrastructure department’s water transmission and distribution policies and design guideline.
The affordable housing water service upgrade grant would have a maximum limit of $5,000 per property, would be funded from the water capital reserve and the annual grant allocation wouldn’t exceed $50,000.
Ontario’s More Homes, More Choices Act of 2019 encourages the creation of affordable housing and one way is allowing accessory suites in a house, that can already have two units, on property zoned for single-detached, semi-detached and row house units. These provisions are included in Barrie’s zoning bylaw to allow for the construction of accessory suites, resulting in as many as three residential units on these properties.
But creating three residential units on a single property usually requires an upgrade to the water line servicing the property, as the original servicing likely only calculated for one residential unit on the property. So using the original service often results in inadequate water pressure and flows to each unit.
The city is processing several applications for accessory suites, but the size of water pipes is a challenge.
Costs to upgrade the municipal water service can be prohibitive to developing affordable housing suites. For example, upgrade costs within the municipal right-of-way can be between $5,000 and $15,000.
The city defines affordable rental housing as a unit for which the rent doesn’t exceed 30 per cent of the gross annual household income for low- to moderate-income households. That income is based upon the most recent Canada Census statistics for Barrie, which is updated every five years.
Applicants for the affordable housing water service upgrade grants would have to show the accessory unit meets the affordable housing criteria at the time of application. An agreement to keep the suite affordable for 20 years would be entered into and registered on title. Should the suite not remain affordable, the grant would need to be repaid.
If it receives final approval from city council at its Oct. 5 meeting, this program would be included in the 2021 business plan (operating, capital budgets). Funding would come from the city’s water capital reserve.
Barrie’s affordable housing strategy is designed to encourage, stimulate and increase the supply and range of affordable housing options to meet the needs of residents of all income levels, at all stages of life. Its goal is the construction of 600 affordable housing units in Barrie, aligned with Simcoe County’s 10-year affordable housing plan that allocates the need for 840 units in Barrie, of which 252 are geared to subsidy by the county, to the year 2025.
Affordable housing is a range of housing types allowing families and individuals, of all income levels, to find suitable places to live without spending a disproportionate percentage of their income on housing. Affordable housing can include ownership, rental or subsidized housing.