Where will small towns and rural areas fit in the province’s housing plan?
Date: November 28, 2018
The Ontario government is developing an action plan with the objective of helping increase the supply of housing in Ontario. To inform the plan, the government is collecting the views of all Ontarians on how to expand the supply of ownership and rental housing in Ontario. ROI encourages rural stakeholders to contribute their ideas, as there are many aspects of such a plan that could be relevant to rural places.
For example, many rural and northern regions of the province are facing labour shortages and employers and communities would welcome the settlement of newcomers from other parts of the province or immigrants. However, the availability of accessible/appropriate-sized housing can be a challenge and limits the impact of attraction efforts. Government action might be encouraged that would help rural districts and counties incentivize the creation of units geared to supporting newcomer attraction efforts within current settlement areas. A province-wide housing strategy might speak to the desirability of encouraging resettlement to low unemployment districts and not just focus on the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.
Another piece of the puzzle is the inter-generational considerations. With an older population and an older housing stock with more homes in need of major repair in rural areas (see the 2017 Fact Sheets on Housing here) we could be thinking about what type of government programs could help seniors retrofit homes to keep their dwellings fit for the market and/or provide them a continuum of alternative supportive local housing solutions so that they can sell their homes to younger generations struggling to acquire a first home. Many seniors are living in homes that are now outsized for their needs but don’t see alternative good options for them in their hometowns. This focus might be a win-win strategy for young and old alike.
Finally, there is sprawl and congestion to consider. Many rural areas in the periphery of major urban centres are experiencing urbanization. Much of the farmland in these near-urban rural areas is rented for agriculture and owned by development interests or speculators. These interests will be urging the province to relax land use policies to increase the supply of land that can be built on and arguing that this will increase housing supply and reduce prices. Yet protecting farmland for future generations shows up as a high priority every time we survey rural stakeholders about what is important to them. Input to the province that increasing housing supply and maintaining farmland protection are both important will inevitably lead to discussions of how to balance these goals and create livable cities with appropriate density and urban form with access to open spaces even while we aim for permanent protection for agricultural lands.
Rural people should make themselves heard in this dialogue. Visit www.ontario.ca/housingsupply to participate. Submissions are being accepted until January 25, 2019.