District of Muskoka scraps development charge waivers for affordable housing

Huntsville Forester

ByAlison Brownlee,  June 26th

HUNTSVILLE – The District of Muskoka has scrapped development charge waivers for affordable housing and has replaced them with a new program.

“The development charge waivers were the best plan we had in the early stages,” said Huntsville Coun. Fran Coleman. “I didn’t want to do away with those waivers until we came up with a better plan. And I think this is it.”

Coleman made her comments at a district council meeting on June 17.

The new program involves two bylaws.

“One bylaw would create a framework for program initiatives that will flexibly respond to the wide range of housing needs,” stated a media release. “A second bylaw redirects current district expenditures into the program in a phased manner over the next five years.”

The district will fund the new affordable housing initiative by redirecting about $325,000 in annual expenditures on waivers for development charges as well as about $215,000 in savings from social assistance expenditures beginning in 2014, according to the release.

Stephen Cairns, commissioner of finance and corporate services, stated in the release that the previous development charge waiver has assisted development of modest single-family homes since 2009. “We have invested over $1 million in reimbursements and we could use these funds much better and more strategically to fund multi-residential and other housing programs.

Rick Williams, commissioner of community services, noted that there are housing shortages for low-income seniors, low-income single adults, adults with disabilities and single-parent families with children under age 18.

“Each of these groups is growing across Muskoka and we are not seeing the development of quality rental accommodation to meet these needs,” stated Williams in the release. “Our wait list for rental accommodation continues to grow at a rate of 75 units per year on top of the 650 already waiting. We need to change that.”


TORONTO, Ontario – June 25, 2013 – Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Housing today met to discuss the need for long-term, sustainable affordable and social housing.

“We are encouraged by the federal government’s recent proposal to extend funding for new affordable housing,” said Robert C. McLeod, Minister Responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and Chair of the 2013 meeting of Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Housing. “But together we also need to protect the homes of the more than 600,000 families in social housing.”

The Ministers agreed that the current complement of social and affordable housing in Canada is among the most important social infrastructure in our communities. Significant decreases in federal social housing funding will create increasing challenges to meet the housing needs of Canadians.

As the host of the Ministers’ meeting, Linda Jeffrey, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing noted that “the time to act is now. A long-term federal funding commitment for housing is critical to address the unmet housing needs of Canadians today and for future generations.”

Provincial and Territorial Ministers came together in Toronto to share information and build on common ground with respect to affordable and social housing issues. They noted that any affordable housing agreements need to be flexible and respect provincial and territorial jurisdictions, for example the training of apprentices. They also had an opportunity to discuss engagement with stakeholders and plans for a future meeting with their federal counterpart.

“We recognize the importance of affordable and social housing, and believe that all levels of government need to work together to meet diverse regional housing needs and priorities,” said Minister McLeod. “My colleagues and I invite Minister Finley, the federal Minister Responsible for Housing to a meeting in Yellowknife in order to work together to address the housing needs of Canadians.”

Although it shares the concerns of the other provincial and territorial governments about the substantive needs in housing, Québec intends to make its own representations to the federal government regarding housing at the appropriate time.

Ministers also noted that:

  • Safe, adequate and affordable housing is a basic need of Canadians, including persons with disabilities, and the ability to secure such housing is a determinant for most economic and social challenges.
  • Housing is critically important to the economy. Housing starts are a leading economic indicator because housing creates jobs, both direct and indirect. Affordable housing is a key component. In the three years from 2010-2012 combined provincial/territorial and federal spending added over $3 billion per year to the economy and created or sustained 35,000 jobs.
  • The aging population is putting increasing pressure on affordable and appropriate housing for seniors and limiting their ability to remain in their homes.
  • Poverty, which includes a large group of people whose housing needs are not met, costs Canada’s health care systems $7.6 billion annually.
  • A recent Mental Health Commission of Canada study found that increasing the supply of affordable housing will reduce pressure on health care, emergency services and the justice systems. Every dollar spent on housing reduces spending in other shelter, health and justice services by $1.54.
  • Children who are adequately housed perform better in school. Children in stable housing are four times less likely to drop out of school.