1. Central Elgin Housing Strategy Report
Tim Welch, Tim Welch Consulting was in attendance to present Central Elgin Housing
Background - The impact of access to decent, safe and affordable housing
is undeniable. Access to affordable housing allows families to have to make fewer
trade-offs between household expenses and basic necessities. Several studies have
indicated that access to quality, affordable homes is not only an important determinant
of health outcomes but also integral for communities to achieve sustainable development
In the Municipality of Central Elgin the need for affordable housing is significant
and the lack of affordable housing affects the both individual residents and the
collective well-being of local communities in Central Elgin.
For instance, residents that have high housing costs generally have less income
remaining to spend on goods and services which results in less money spent on local
business, thereby decreasing the opportunity for business growth. Furthermore, although
the impact of access to safe, suitable and adequate affordable housing on individuals
and families are profound for almost everyone, it often disproportionately affects
vulnerable groups including seniors, single parent households, Indigenous families,
and new immigrants, and persons earning moderate income in the retail, tourism and
In recent years, sharp rises in rental and ownership prices, low rental vacancy
rates and limited housing supply have characterized many of the housing markets
in in Southern Ontario. Moreover, some housing markets have experienced the ripple
effects of neighbouring markets with extremely high housing prices. For instance,
the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA’s) strong housing market has, in many ways, influenced
the recent surge in housing prices in markets across Southern Ontario as buyers
look for more affordable units and, as some retirees are looking to downsize and
use the equity built up in their Toronto area homes. As such, Central Elgin, Elgin
County, St. Thomas and other regions have experienced significant increases in housing
prices over the last few years.
Given the growing concern surrounding affordable housing, policymakers and politicians
alike have engaged in discussions to address the mounting challenges facing housing.
The federal government recently announced a 10-year, $55 billion National Housing
Strategy. In addition, the provincial government announced in 2019 both the Community
Housing Strategy and the Fair Housing Plan. The overall objectives of these policies
are to address the need for affordable housing by increasing the supply of new affordable
rental housing while preserving the existing social housing stock.
Purpose of the Strategy
The primary purpose of the Central Elgin Affordable Housing Strategy is to set out
local goals and actions which can help address the need for affordable housing.
The strategy will have with a particular focus on housing for seniors and younger
families wanting to stay in or move to Central Elgin. The local actions in the strategy
should be undertaken in the context of Policies and Programs of the Federal, Provincial
and Service Manager levels of government and should seek to leverage as much of
the funding or financial resources available through the programs offered through
those levels of government.
In support of the strategy, the following are provided:
- Establishing how affordable housing can be defined
- An overview of housing needs and demands to establish what kind of affordable housing
is needed presently within Central Elgin
- An overview of the current policies of programs of the Federal, Provincial and Service
Manager levels of government;
- A high level summary of best practices in other municipalities to provide examples
of housing policies and programs which are appropriate for Central Elgin;
- Recommending potential financial incentives within Central Elgin to help support
the construction of affordable housing
- Providing recommendations on the implementation of second unit policies for Central
Elgin’s zoning-by laws
- Recommending the creation of a municipal housing facilities by-law and Community
Improvement Plan for affordable housing, incorporating best practices: and
- Encouraging the use of the resources of community organizations and the private
sector which can help support meeting the affordable housing needs of Central Elgin
What is Affordable Housing?
There are many different ways of defining affordable housing. Some definitions exist
in provincial laws, different definitions exist in housing programs and for many
people, there is a very personal definition of what housing can they afford based
on their own incomes. Below is a brief overview of various definitions.
1.1 Provincial Definition
To provide guidance on how municipalities should define affordable housing within
their respective planning policies, the Provincial Policy Statement (2014) provides
the following language for affordable ownership and rental housing in Section 6.0:
a) In the case of ownership housing, the least expensive
- 1. Housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which
do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income
- 2. Housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average
purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area
b) in the case of rental housing, the least expensive of:
- 1. A unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household
income for low and moderate income households; or
- 2. A unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in
the regional market area
Central Elgin has adopted this definition of affordable housing in its Official
Plan and there is no need to change that definition.
In many municipalities that undertake affordable housing initiatives, this second
rental housing definition, - where rent is at or below CMHC average market rents,
is the most commonly used definition when offering financial incentives or financial
relief from municipal fees and charges, to create new affordable housing. Many by-laws
- known as municipal housing facility by-laws that provide for financial assistance
for affordable housing - use this definition.
1.2 CMHC Definition of Affordable Housing
Although the definition of affordable housing can differ from one area to another,
traditionally within the housing industry and according to the Canadian Mortgage
and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing is affordable for a given household if it
costs less than 30% of gross (before-tax) household income.
1.3 Affordable Housing Definition as per Housing programs
It is important to note the definition of affordable housing in the Provincial Policy
Statement, 2014 differs from the definition in the federal-provincial Investment
in Affordable Housing (IAH) Program, now replaced by the Ontario Priorities Housing
Initiative (OPHI). That is, for properties built or renovated under the IAH/OPHI
the following criteria applies:
- 1. Affordability is defined as having rents for the project that are at or below
80% of CMHC Average Market Rent (AMR) in the service manager's area at the time
of occupancy where actual rents are calculated using actual rents paid by tenants
and any rent supplements provided by the Service Manager. For example, in the St.
Thomas-Elgin county area, an affordable one bedroom apartment would be $550 under
this program while and two bedroom would be $684 per month.
Population Trends and Projections in Central Elgin
It is important to examine population and household characteristics when evaluating
the housing needs within a community.
Central Elgin experienced a modest 1.1% population decline from 2011 to 2016 while
Elgin County and the City of St. Thomas experienced modest population growth of
1.7% and 2.6% respectively.
In 2016, nearly 20% (19.5%) of the Central Elgin Population were seniors aged 65
and older. In comparison, only 16.7% of Ontario’s population was 65 years and older.
From 2011 to 2016 the number of seniors in Central Elgin increased by 27%, the number
of persons aged 55 – 64 increased by 2% while all other age groups experienced a
decrease in numbers.
Household Trends and Characteristics
It is important to understand household characteristics when evaluating the need
for housing including trends in the number, tenure, size, and type of households
in a community to understand the housing need in that community.
While there was a very modest decrease in population, there has been an actual increase
in the number of households due, in part to decreasing household sizes. There were
4,925 households in Central Elgin in 2016; increasing by 3.1% from 4,775 in 2006.
In 2016, couples without children made up 38.1% of all households in Central Elgin
compared to 28.7% in Ontario. In addition, persons living alone made up 18.4% of
all households in Central Elgin and the number people living alone increased by
1% from 2011 to 2016. The highest overall increase was seen for couples without
children, increasing by 7% from 2011 to 2016.\
In 2016, 89% of households in Central Elgin owned their homes. Renter households
made up 11.0% of all households in Central Elgin. Across Ontario, 69.7% of households
owned their homes while 30.2% of households were renters. The minimal change in
the proportion of owner and renter households in Central Elgin over the last ten
years indicates Central Elgin is more rural in nature than comparable communities.
However, it may also indicate a lack of rental housing as many residents are looking
Households with two persons made up the largest proportion of households in Central
Elgin in 2016; making up 42.9% of all households, followed by one-person households
that constituted 18.5% of all households.
The growing number of smaller households as well as a decrease in the number of
couples with children in Central Elgin, and increase in number of households, indicate
an aging population. More specifically, many developers in the area suggested there
has been an increase in empty nesters moving into the area looking to downsize from
their existing dwellings, most of whom are seniors and retirees that have moved
into the area from the GTA and, people from London looking to take advantage of
comparably cheaper prices.
Household Income Spent on Housing
CMHC defines affordable housing as housing that costs less than 30% of before-tax
There are currently 705 households with affordability issues in Central Elgin, of
which 480 are owners and 225 are renters. However, 41.6% of all renter households
are spending 30% or more on housing costs and in comparison, only 16.2% of owner
households are spending more than 30% or more on housing costs. This suggests a
significant need for more affordable rental units.
Overall Housing Supply
Single detached dwellings made up the majority of housing stock in Central Elgin
constituting 93.1% of all dwellings in 2016. This is much higher share compared
to 54.3% in Ontario as a whole. Apartments in Central Elgin currently represent
only 3% of the housing stock. However, current analysis indicates households are
becoming more diverse in terms of housing need. Currently Central Elgin is experiencing
an aging population that is looking to downsize and shift to smaller households
which implies a need for accessible apartments or accessible row-house style units
(both rental and ownership) in the future.
New Homes in Planning
According to the Municipality of Central Elgin, there are a currently a total of
1,400 dwellings in planning approval. If all of these homes are built, this would
represent a 28% increase in dwelling units for the municipality. Of these new homes,
single detached dwellings accounted for 46.2% of all households in planning, followed
by semi-detached which constituted 6.1%, then row houses which made up 6.3% and
finally apartment buildings at 42.3%.
The increase in apartment buildings under planning approval confirm that individuals
are looking to downsize, and that there will be an overall change in the type of
housing in demand in Central Elgin. In general, the most appropriate dwelling type
for seniors, persons with disabilities and people living alone is not single-detached
homes and that may be a reason why there are more apartments in the planning approvals
process. Furthermore, single-detached homes are often more expensive and with individuals
looking to purchase more affordable units, a housing supply that is disproportionately
made up of single-detached homes will not appropriately meet the housing needs of
Purpose Built Rental Stock
There are currently 540 rental units in Central Elgin. Of those, 63.8% are single-detached,
2.8% are semi-detached, 6.5% are row houses and 27.1% are apartment buildings. In
comparison, 13.2% of the rental stock in Ontario are single-detached, 3.7% are semi-detached,
8.9% is row housing, and the remaining 77.9% are apartment buildings. In general,
these figures are consistent for small urban centres and rural areas due to the
relatively small rental market as compared to larger urban areas.
There is one non-profit housing development in Central Elgin, the Kettle Creek Village,
which is owned by the Municipality of Central Elgin. This is a two-story, 30-unit,
non-profit seniors housing complex located at 289 Frances Street in Port Stanley
with 18 one bedroom apts., 12 two bedroom apartments and an elevator. The building
has a mixture of low end of market rents and apartments with Rent geared to Income
assistance. It will be important to preserve and maintain this accessible, affordable
However, the vast majority of housing units in Central Elgin are private market
housing units and include both rental and ownership units.
Average Rents in Rental Universe
The average market rent of units in the primary rental market was $799 based on
the 2016 census. In the 2016 census the average rent in St. Thomas was $817. CMHC
does not survey average rents in Central Elgin annually but does survey average
St. Thomas rents and in the fall of 2018 the average rent in St. Thomas had increased
significantly to $910. The average one bedroom rent in St. Thomas 2018 was $694
while the maximum shelter allowance for a single person receiving a disability pension
is $497 per month – a significant $200 per month gap. And a single senior receiving
a basic CPP/OAS/GIC pension would have to spend 44% of their income to afford the
average one bedroom rental apartment in the St. Thomas area.
Ownership Cost Trends
The increase in the cost of buying a home in Elgin County has been significant.
Between 2011 and 2019, the resale values of homes increased 64.9% ($140,00 or $17,500
annually). The rate of inflation during that same period was 16.4%. This suggests
that the influx of individuals looking for affordable housing are driving the prices
up in Elgin County and Central Elgin.
In addition, of the current units listed for sale in Elgin County only three dwellings
or 3% of current listings are available at/below the 60th percentile as defined
in Central Elgin’s Official Plan (income: $296,300).
Need and Demand Conclusion
Given both the significant increase in senior population in recent years (a trend
which is expected to continue) and the high proportion of renter households with
an affordability issue, efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing should
be concentrated on creating new affordable housing with a focus on seniors affordable
rental housing as well as rental housing for single persons and family households
which will be needed to work in the service sector (including service industries
which will expand to reflect the future growth of seniors of all income levels in
Best Practices for Housing Assistance
In Central Elgin it would be appropriate to focus any municipal incentives for affordable
housing in the designated urban settlement areas that the municipality is targeting
for population growth.
It is also worth noting that in order to maximize the financial effectiveness of
municipal financial assistance, there would need to be a parallel approach by the
County of Elgin on its fees and charges for new affordable developments.
It is also worth noting that the recently passed Bill 108 permits municipalities
to provide for a 20 year deferral of development charges for affordable non-profit
One of the primary reasons for using CIPs rather than broad based policies is due
Section 106 of the Municipal Act (2001) which prohibits municipalities from directly
or indirectly assisting any manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial
enterprises through the granting of certain financial incentives. These prohibited
financial incentives includes:
- giving or lending money, or municipal property;
- leasing or selling any municipal property at below fair market value;
- guaranteeing borrowing; and
- giving a total or partial exemption from any levy, charge or fee.
The contribution of land for an affordable housing development can make a significant
difference in improving the affordability of a new housing development. As part
of a housing strategy there should be a full examination of the land holdings of
both the Municipality and the County land holdings in Central Elgin to see if there
are sites that would be appropriate (in the growth nodes, close to services) for
consideration for a new housing development with the goal of having that land provided
at no cost either through a transfer or long term lease. While the intensification
of existing non-profit housing has been undertaken in some areas of Ontario but
the one existing Kettle Creek non-profit site in Port Stanley appears to be fully
utilized with building and parking spaces.
Land for affordable housing could also be identified through an invitation to community
organizations, faith groups, service clubs and other not-for profit (or for profit)
land owners to contribute land towards a new affordable housing development as has
been done in other communities in Ontario.
New Affordable Housing
In order to try and encourage the development of new affordable housing, the Municipality
could reach out to a variety of non-profit and private sector organizations by the
Municipality sponsoring an information session about affordable housing. This session
- information on financial assistance that could be available from all levels of government;
- solicit interest from organizations potentially interested in sponsoring or developing
- gathering information on possible appropriate land in the community that could be
made available/donated/leased for affordable housing.
It is our understanding that Municipal staff have been raising the issue of creating
some affordable units within larger private developments but have been meeting resistance
from the private developers. If Central Elgin can offer municipal incentives as
per recommendation 1.3 below and if Central Elgin can connect an affordable housing
property manager with the developer for the affordable units, there may be more
of an ability to successfully negotiate some affordable units within a development.
Given the clear affordable housing development goal in the Central Elgin’s Official
Plan, the Council of Central Elgin (with support from the County of Elgin), should
firmly require developments to do their part to achieve the Official Plan affordable
Staff (supported by Council) of Central Elgin should continue to work with proposed
new subdivisions and multi-residential/apartment developments to ask the proponents
how their developments will help meet the affordable housing goals of the Official
Plan. Those discussions (supported by firm backing of Council, combined with municipal
incentives), should allow an opportunity to encourage and negotiate commitments
from developers that would result in a portion of the development to be affordable.
While new affordable housing is often thought of in terms of developing a new apartment
building or townhouse development, new affordable rental units can also be created
through smaller scale intensification of exiting housing stock. Adding an apartment
within an existing single-family home, or through converting garage space to a second
unit/apartment is often referred to as adding a secondary suite or second unit.
The provincial government has required municipalities to permit Secondary Suites
in existing detached, semi-detached and row housing over the past few years. Central
Elgin has provided for “Second Residential units” in its most recent Official Plan,
setting the stage for welcoming new rental units. Central Elgin’s OP on Second Residential
Units also complies with the County of Elgin’s Official Plan on second units.
In order to encourage more new rental second residential units, some of which will
be affordable, Central Elgin should amend its zoning by-laws to clearly make second
units “as of right” as long as they comply with Building and Fire codes. Having
to go through a public hearing process of a minor variance application discourages
home owners from moving forward with adding second units, or, unfortunately, sometimes
results in home owners creating new units without permits, meaning the new units
are not necessarily building code compliant or safe. A legal, inspected unit also
ensures the municipality is aware of the unit’s existence which is important for
fire safety reasons, among others. However, once a new legal unit is created, it
should not be subject to any additional licensing/inspection requirements/costs
than other rental properties in the municipality.
Key considerations in the zoning-bylaw to encourage the creation of more second
unit rental housing should include:
- Permitting second units in single detached, semi-detached and row/townhouse dwellings;
- Identifying which land use zones second units should be permitted in;
- Identifying locations where second units should not be permitted due to servicing
capacity or natural hazard concerns;
- Maximum unit size;
- Location of second unit entrance and extent of exterior alterations to the principal
- Number of required parking spaces for the second unit (ideally no more than one
extra space for the second unit);
- Conditions to permit tandem parking (e.g. min. driveway width); and
- Ensuring that all other provisions of the City's zoning by-laws are complied with.
To help generate awareness and interest among homeowners, it is recommended that
Central Elgin creates an education program/educational materials on-line and in
print that promotes the creation of second units in newly built and existing dwellings.
- 1.1 Generate awareness and interest among homeowners by creating education programs
that promote the creation of second units in newly built and existing dwellings
- 1.2 Central Elgin should update their zoning by- laws provide reasonable development
standards for second units:
- Identify locations where second units should not be permitted due to servicing capacity
or natural hazard concerns
- Require no more than one additional parking space for a second residential unit
- Permit tandem parking (with min. driveway width and ensuring that all other provisions
of the City's zoning by-laws are complied with).
- Flexibility with requirements for the provision of a second entrance
- Minimum sizes should not be any larger than other minimum unit size requirements
in the municipality
- 1.3 Central Elgin should implement financial incentive options (and encourage the
County of Elgin to similarly adopt financial incentive options) for affordable housing
developments. These could include:
- Waiving development approval fees
- Waiving/deferring development charges and parkland fees
- Tax increment financing over a long-period of time or property tax exemption
- 1.4 Central Elgin should create a municipal housing facilities by-law and a Community
Improvement Plan for affordable housing (with the goal of providing financial assistance),
defining affordable housing as rental units with average rent (as reported by CMHC)
- 1.5 Central Elgin should reach out to potential housing collaborators, including
private developers and community groups, to identify underutilized and surplus land
within Central Elgin which would be suitable for affordable rental housing
- 1.6 Have the Municipality of Central Elgin and the County of Elgin to review their
land holdings, and identify sites suitable for new multi-residential use and transfer
(or provide a long-term lease) to the proponent of the new municipal housing
- 1.7 Host an affordable housing information session which would link rental housing
proponents and first time home buyers to CMHC and Service Manager housing assistance
Ideally this will lead to a local champion/sponsor of new housing, to submit a seed
application and access other existing CMHC programs and reach out to Service Manager
about accessing potential capital funds
- 1.8 Improve Municipal Regulatory and Processing Tools (i.e. expedited processing
and reducing parking requirement to 1:1 for new affordable housing)
- 1.9 Have Central Elgin Council provide clear direction to Municipal Staff to require
a portion of all new housing developments include a portion of units as affordable
in order to meet the Official Plan Goal. This requirement should be combined with
incentives in recommendation 1.3
Given the current and emerging housing gaps within Central Elgin, the housing needs
assessment identified key areas that need to be addressed: a need for a more diverse
housing supply which will better address the housing need for residents of Central
Elgin and an increase in purpose built rental housing to address an aging population
looking to downsize.
In addition, this strategy has recommended a total of 9 actions to help address
these housing gaps. These actions include providing financial incentives and expanding
on policy/planning strategies to encourage the development of affordable housing.
Councillor Roberts commented that if she were looking for affordable housing, she
would not pick Central Elgin because there are no jobs for her and no public transportation.
So if we promote affordable housing in Central Elgin are we just providing more
affordable housing to the people that can already afford housing in Central Elgin.
Mr. Welch replied that with the increase in seniors moving to Central Elgin that
this creates a demand for more retail and support services in the community and
that these services have traditionally had lower wages and would in order to fill
these positions need affordable housing.
A Motion moved by Deputy Mayor Marks and seconded by Councillor Fehr be it Resolved
that Council receive Report 2019 Central Elgin Housing Strategy prepared by Tim
Welch Consulting Inc. ; And that staff be requested to prepare a report for Council's
consideration outlining costs, and processes to implement the reports recommended
actions with such costs being incorporated into the 2020 Proposed Budget. Carried.