Glover suggests a way the 3 tiers of government can cooperate to solve local problems of affordable housing
Opinion by Dave Glover
Over the past several weeks, I’ve written on the issue of housing, about the challenges of purchasing a home and the lack of affordable housing.
Researching the matter, I’ve concluded that government does have a role to play, however, it remains an unwilling partner.
I was interested in the possible use of crown land to build affordable or public housing.
Why focus on acquiring crown land, you might ask?
Given the province’s willingness to bend over backwards for developers, I thought I’d shine a light on what I see as a perfect opportunity for the government to save face.
The Auditor’s report, while slamming the greenbelt swaps, also made it clear that the province has more than enough land already available for these builds.
Ms. Lysyk stated that the audit found more than enough private land for development and concluded that opening the greenbelt was unnecessary.
The report alluded to significant crown holdings that could be made available for building the homes we desperately need.
Looking at possibilities for land closer at hand, I reached out to Northumberland County to find out where local municipalities and the next tier stand on the acquisition of the former Brookside property and Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) surplus land located west of Port Hope. The town was all set to buy that land when the provincial government nixed the deal.
Unfortunately, nobody in the Town of Cobourg, the Municipality of Port Hope or the County of Northumberland has information about what is happening with the two properties.
Regarding the Brookside property located on King Street, a 40+ acreage, I was advised to contact the office of MPP David Piccini.
I spoke to an assistant at Mr. Piccini’s office, but at this time, she stated there is no information to share.
I tried to push the matter but was advised that staff would look into it and get back to me. At this point, no one has contacted me.
When I spoke with staff at Northumberland County offices, I was advised that the issue of the best use of undeveloped land is top of mind. Particularly as the number of homeless in Northumberland has increased, but no more information was offered.
I reached out to Infrastructure Ontario, the people who manage and make determinations regarding surplus or excess property held by the province of Ontario.
I spoke to a fellow named Ian, who advised that the Brookside property is being held as surplus by his department, and at this time, no offer for sale or tender had been made
.Apparently, the property is still being looked at for potential sale or transfer to a lower tier government i.e. Northumberland County or Town of Cobourg.
I asked if the property could simply be transferred to the town and was advised that there would still have to be a financial exchange, even if only a dollar. As for the OPG land, it hasn’t been classified as surplus at this time and is still owned by the corporation.
My calls to the Ministry of Housing went unanswered, but I hope to hear back from someone to advise what next steps may be taken to acquire the lands in question.
Last week was a bad week for the Ford/Piccini government with the release of the Auditor’s Report, but they can make it better. It will take political will but, a good outcome for affordable housing can be achieved.
You may or may not remember, the federal and provincial governments got out of the housing game in the early 90s, but they still hold the purse strings that control how and when public housing is built.
The solution is as simple as it is straightforward.
Ford’s government has the land the municipalities need which it can transfer over to the county who can build rental homes to suit demand with rents geared to income.
Or Northumberland County could build co-op housing or partner with Habitat for Humanity to provide low-cost-ownership homes.
It’s a fairly straightforward proposal. Ottawa provides the funding. Queens Park provides the land.
In the case of Brookside, the county could retrofit existing structures for emergency shelter and maybe even provide treatment facilities for those enduring addiction and mental health issues.
It is easy to point fingers and attach blame to the ongoing housing emergency, but that doesn’t solve the problem of affordable housing now, not five or ten years from now.
We need bold actions now to tackle the issue and get people safely and securely housed.
As we deal with the immediate need to house the homeless, we can break ground on new builds or retrofits for the existing structures on the Brookside property.
The solution is straightforward, but it will take political will.
Prime Minister Trudeau and his ministers have already said they’re willing to partner with cities and towns across Canada to build homes.
Premier Ford has also indicated a willingness to find solutions.
Municipalities will get affordable/emergency housing they need.
What I’m proposing is a win-win-win for all levels of government.
Our friends, families and neighbours in Northumberland County will get the homes they need at a price they can afford.
Dave Glover is a well known cultural and political commentator in Northumberland. Thousands of listeners, both locally and worldwide, know Dave because of his “Drive Time” radio broadcast that ran for more than 8 years and his 15 years hosting political programs on a local cable channel.
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