Turning a housing corner?

When the Kawartha Lakes-Haliburton Housing Corporation announced some of its future targets a while back there was some skepticism in Haliburton County.

One of the goals – reported in The Highlander on July 4, 2019, was a plan to bring 5,500 additional housing units to the wider region over the next 20 years.

Contained in the ‘From Housing Assets to Housing People’ report, Lisa Oliveira said it translated into 40 units in the County annually.

At the time, at least one County councillor, Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts, wasn’t entirely convinced, noting there had not been a lot of success getting private developers to jump into the affordable housing market locally.

She was not wrong. The County has struggled to get affordable housing since it has had to come on the backs of municipalities, with help from the provincial and federal governments. Some other charitable organizations, such as Places for People, have been doing their part but could only provide a small number of units when waiting lists ballooned into the thousands across the region. Private developers indeed had little interest in social housing.

Slowly, we are beginning to see a change. Take last Thursday’s public news that a private citizen, Bill Switzer, had donated land to the corporation in hopes of developing 30 units in Minden. It is the first public-private partnership of its kind here. Having land donated makes developing a project such as this – 15 townhouses – a more realistic proposition for the corporation. It also gives them leverage to go to other sources of funding.

The exciting news of the $6.8 million development for a swathe of land between Rotary Park and the Legion comes on the heels of another breakthrough by Places for People, announced at a Dysart council meeting in the summer. Tapping into social bonds for the first time, it is hoping to spend $2-$2.5 million on 10-12 affordable units in Dysart by the fall of 2022.

Those two announcements alone – 30 units in Minden and 10-12 in Haliburton – hits that lofty target of 40 units a year right on the mark.

What is most encouraging about the two projects announced this summer is that there is private sector involvement. That may become the deal breaker to get over the affordable housing hump here in Haliburton County. We hope both act as models of housing going forward.

Of course, there is other development occurring as well. The Whispering Pines housing development on County Road 21 just opened its phase two of 12 units, bringing the number of units at phase one and two, to 36. The units near the Minden Arena are also now offering a combined 33 units. We have seen the owner of Minden Pharmasave get into the real estate game, putting five units into downtown Minden. Other landlords are creating rental spaces. And, of course, residents have been watching the Gardens of Haliburton take shape at the Highway 118 entrance to Haliburton Village, this on the heels of other recent condo projects. It’s anticipated older people will leave their homes in the County to fill those 70 units, thus freeing up valuable housing stock to those who have long been unable to find an affordable place to live.

While some of the lofty goals remain, at least we can see some movement on the housing front after years of frustration for County residents. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Stay Connected

Get TheHighlander delivered to your inbox for FREE every Thursday!
*