The topic of affordable housing, or low-barrier housing, is discussed year after year, election after
election, at all levels of government. Most citizens, even some who have been elected to serve, don’t really have a full appreciation for the problem because it’s been largely invisible... until now.
The emergence of the Tent City has been called the "canary in the coal mine". If by that you mean that there is a lot of volatile gas around the issue, sure. But let’s just say that the Tent City has illuminated a serious problem in Peterborough, and many other communities across the country.
Much has been written about why the Tent City was triggered, who is living there, the various agendas
involved, and what the solutions are, but let’s just establish that it’s an incredibly deep and complex situation involving the lack of affordable housing (and the harsh reality of what that actually means), mental health, addictions, homelessness, red tape/rules and regulations, and more. And not one of us would want to be in one of those tents.
How a society treats its most vulnerable is a measure of that society. As much as one could argue that our social safety net is better than many other countries, it’s also true that over the years mental health services have been seriously eroded, affordable housing has become much less affordable and much more difficult to build, opioid addiction is now a full-on crisis, the shelter system is stressed and Governments with less and less money are having to take care of more and more people.
So, what now?
Like the problems, the solutions are multi-layered and complex. Our elected leaders hosted a round table discussion last week which included some education on the issues from City and County front-line staff, and agencies such as Built for Zero (bfzcanada.ca), which is seeing a growing number of communities achieving effectively zero homelessness. We were struck by the approach of staff which is based on a “by-name” system. Knowing the people affected by name and dealing with their issues and circumstances one by one is truly front-line work, eating the elephant one bite at a time. As a result, the Tent City is slowly shrinking as caseworkers work closely with individuals.
The round table established a ten-point plan which included short-, medium- and long-term goals. The list has been well publicized, but it includes the immediate goal of finding a new location for the Warming Room, working to create new applications to the National Housing Strategy in order to trigger new affordable housing development, and more.
The Chamber of Commerce network is currently working on a number of measures, including:
The “Housing First” approach aims to move homeless people rapidly from shelters and the streets into stable housing, while providing them with the necessary support for underlying mental health or
additional issues to stabilize their lives.
The second recommendation from the “Addressing Homelessness in Canada” resolution was to
coordinate efforts with the provinces/territories and municipalities to stimulate new affordable housing construction. This is very similar to the request in 2019 of aligning federal and municipal policies.
Sometimes it takes a crisis in order for things to get done. This is hopefully one of those times. The people who have populated Tent City have been judged by many people, but perhaps they’ll be the trigger to realizing a sustainable solution.
The Ten-Point Plan for a Rapid Response to Homelessness and Housing includes the following:
Ten-Point Plan for a Rapid Response to Homelessness and Housing
For Immediate Release
July 23, 2019
Therrien and Monsef announce 10-point plan for a Rapid Response to Homelessness and Housing
As a result of today’s meeting at the Mount Community Centre, a 10-Point Plan for a Rapid Response to Homelessness and Housing has been established. The plan consists of the following:
1. Immediately implement recommendations arising from the Rapid Response to Homelessness and Housing Meeting on July 23 to provide more supports and services to encourage those living rough to move indoors.
2. Mayor will strike a Rapid Shelter Task Force to determine a Plan A and Plan B for more permanent, low-barrier shelter for the most vulnerable in our community, with a report due to Council in 60 days.
3. Willing government partners will help the Task Force by providing staff to form a Secretariat.
4. Willing government partners will help the Task Force by suggesting community experts to form the membership of the Task Force.
5. The voices of those living rough in our community, as well as community experts and advocates, will be heard through the development of the Task Force report and the future creation of low-barrier shelter through multiple avenues, including representation on the Task Force and consultations.
6. City of Peterborough will continue to develop its Official Plan to ensure that creative solutions for housing are available to the community, such as allowing for tiny homes through zoning and by-law amendments, and will look to create an inventory of land that could be made available for affordable housing development.
7. Willing government partners will continue to work together to support a community response to the opioid crisis and mental health needs, including by supporting a Consumption and Treatment Site.
8. A public summit will be held on August 13 to ensure the community can help inform the path forward.
9. Willing government partners will work with community and service providers, as well as willing local developers, over the next 60 days to create new applications to the National Housing Strategy that meet the housing needs of the City and County of Peterborough and that move to build 2,000 units over the next two years.
10. Regular information updates about progress on this plan will be delivered to internal partners and to the community at large.
A new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has been released. The report, titled “Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario”, examines the economic potential of the province’s alcohol sector and how the province could modernize the sale and distribution of beverage alcohol and responsibly promote growth across all four categories – wine, beer, spirits, and cider.
This issue is complex and transcends several ministries such as economic development, agriculture, tourism, taxation, and trade, to name a few. The alcohol sector has also changed significantly in the past decades with the emergence of craft breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries. Now in communities just like ours we are seeing businesses work together to provide a full circle experience around their products.
“The power of the beverage alcohol sector to be a force for economic growth extends beyond just the expected industries. The production, distribution, and sale of alcohol has a ripple effect that benefits agriculture, tourism and hospitality, and retail,” stated Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.
The OCC report includes a number of timely recommendations including:
The recommendations are rooted in three guiding principles:
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has presented solutions in this realm in the form of a request to government to level the tax playing field across the four alcohol disciplines. This was suggested in response to the higher taxes on distilled products. This resolution was part of the impetus for the OCC report as sale and taxation of distilled products continues to be a challenge. Some of the recommendations that mirror the ones from the Peterborough Chamber are:
The Peterborough Chamber also participated in a red tape project driven by Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development to determine if a more streamlined approach is possible in the opening of alcohol-based businesses. The results of those sessions were presented to municipal and provincial governments.
The report also suggests that if the sale of alcohol is to be more widely available a proactive approach on its use is needed.
The report works it way to the conclusion that by getting the modernization process right, the government could unlock economic growth and generate greater tax revenue to fund the public services Ontarians rely on.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is seeking members* interested in serving on the Board of Directors.
This is an exciting opportunity for members who have a keen interest in our organization, who have foresight, and are good at conceptualizing. Serving on the Board of Directors with fellow business leaders in the community will utilize your group and teamwork skills.
The Board of Directors plays a significant role in the development of Chamber policies and focuses on governance of the organization through policy governance.
Directors must be willing to make the appropriate time commitment (please see application form). Representing the Chamber Membership, Directors carry forward the "Voice of Business" to all levels of government.
For more information on the work of the Chamber, please visit www.peterboroughchamber.ca.
If you are interested, please complete the Board Application Form. The form must be completed in its entirety and submitted to the Chamber by Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 at either:
Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, 175 George Street North, Peterborough, ON K9J 3G6
*Only members in good standing may apply. We are dedicated to diversity and inclusivity. Accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request.
Another step forward for the City of Peterborough in the updating of the Official Plan (OP).
The OP is a document that is required by the province and according to the a city report presented to General Committee earlier this week, is the “guiding document that helps set the broad vision and direction for future growth and development.”
That vision is organized around five themes:
At first blush, it seems that the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Official Plan are moving in the same direction. During the 2018 municipal election campaign, the Chamber released a business platform with ten recommendations. Among the recommendations is an official plan that encourages innovative and adaptive zoning practices, builds community engagement into the process, and supports various types of housing stock. All very comparable to what is being presented in the draft official plan.
"However we think it’s fair to ask if this plan will address a long standing and fundamental challenge – the shortage of serviced industrial land," said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of
Commerce. "Reading carefully we see terms such as “maximizing available land”, “adaptation of older employment lands”, and “intensification”, but a clear statement about where the future job growth will be located is very much open to interpretation."
Earlier this year, the provincial government started discussions around provincially significant employment lands. They identified 29 areas across the province, mostly in the GTA.
While the Peterborough area was not selected to have any provincially significant employment lands, the issue of employment lands is extremely important. There is a need as a community to be nimble and to be able to adapt to emerging industries. So as the process continues, the Chamber encourages thought around:
What kind of space will maximize the land available for employment? As with any planning exercise it should be a balance between the needs of residents and the need to create space for employment for those residents and commuters. In general, there is a trend toward using less space and building up. Despite manufacturing not requiring the massive land use of the past, doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for some space and land on which to build places that create and develop products.
Part of the draft official plan is a new employment land planning framework. Intensification is possible in Peterborough, in some areas it is necessary. But there is also a need to have space to be ready for those emerging industries that require more land and cannot be situation in a residential area. It is in this plan that balance is required and cannot be forgotten.
The Official plan is viewed through the lens of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement as well as the guidelines of the 2017 and 2019 iterations of the Growth Plan. But there is also a subtlety of making the plan uniquely Peterborough. Of creating a plan that is bold, encouraging of our creative entrepreneurs and draws on our strengths in aerospace, cleantech, agriculture, and tourism.
If we are going to create the jobs that this area so badly needs, both now and into the future, we need to have a crystal clear path to that future.
There’s an exciting new project afoot in downtown Peterborough and it is in line with an issue near and dear to the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce – the re-development of 2nd and 3rd floor units in downtown cores. In many cases, these spaces are under-utilized or have remained empty for a period of time.
The Chamber views these spaces as an opportunity, as increased residential settlement in the
downtown leads to increased economic activity in that area.
Sitting as General Committee, city council will discuss the approval of an intensification grant for 362 George Street North. This is the building on the northeast corner of George and Simcoe Streets that is also home to commercial businesses including The Speak Easy Café.
The grant is for $132,000 ($10 per square foot) and the owner is planning to build 14 two-storey apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building.
A report by City Staff shows that the project is consistent with the desired intensification targets of 40% under the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement and the 2019 Growth Plan.
The project is also in line with the principles of Peterborough’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law.
The City has community grant and incentive programs that are available around residential needs in the community.
The Central Area Community Plan
This program offers financial incentives to stimulate private-sector investment and revitalization of the Central Area. Grant programs are provided to:
The Affordable Housing Community Plan
Financial incentives are provided to stimulate the construction of affordable housing in our community.
Providing affordable housing is a major social issue and a priority for most urban communities across
Ontario. By providing relief on fees for planning approvals, development charges, and property taxes, we can help lower rents, creating more affordable housing for residents. The Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan also embraces home ownership models.
Heritage Property Tax Relief
Owners of designated heritage properties in the Central Area may be eligible for tax relief in the amount of 40% for residential properties or 20% for commercial properties.
Part of the Chamber's support for this type of redevelopment was in the form of a policy resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
The recommendations included:
Back to our city incentive programs, they are in place to encourage redevelopment of varying degrees. We have a developer willing to invest in our community which helps our community. If your future vision of Peterborough includes a vibrant downtown core then this project is yet another step in achieving that goal.