Provincial policies contribute to housing crunch

Homelessness is increasing in Ontario. In Napanee, we now have our very own shanty-town. Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services, with limited resources, is trying to help but all they can afford to do is hand out tents.

The question is why. We live in Ontario, once the most prosperous province in Canada. We are not in the midst of a 1930s style depression. We are in fact at the peak of the business cycle. We have lots of easily serviced land and numerous capable builders with access to capital. So why is the demand for housing not being met?

To me, the answer is not hard to find.

Over the last 15 years, Ontario’s housing policies have created huge impediments to new housing. It costs $50,000 per lot just to do the paperwork to create a new subdivision. For, example, the Province requires a developer to hire an archaeologist to scour the site for shards of pottery before even starting. As noble as this may be, is it more important than meeting our housing needs? Queen’s Park keeps imposing big-city central planning on small-town Ontario trying to replicate a small version of the Toronto anthill here despite our wide open spaces. This makes our out-of-town planner, IBI Group, very happy but it drives up house prices and forces would-be home-owners into rental property.

And, what about rental property? Almost none has been built in Napanee in the last 15 years except luxury units. Again, the reason is not hard to find. Queen’s Park has gradually removed the ability of landlords to police their buildings.

It takes five months (and $2,000 legal fees) to complete an eviction during which time a tenant pays no rent and may behave very badly. In my 46 years as a landlord, I’ve never seen it this bad. Defaulting tenants sometimes demand ransom to leave. Beleaguered landlords find it cheaper to just pay a bad tenant to leave rather than navigate the broken eviction process.

Landlords have reacted to this challenge in the only way possible. They stopped creating affordable housing years ago and are now upgrade existing units where possible to attract the residents who are excluded from home ownership by sky-high development costs.

Landlords have banded together to share information. Tenants who have defaulted on one landlord now find themselves unable to rent from the others.

These are the people now living in tents.

Well-meaning local agencies have encouraged home-owners to add granny suites. But the reverse is happening. Owners with granny suites often take them out of service rather than risk being terrorized in their own homes while the 5-month eviction process plays out.

All of this was predicable. It was, in fact, predicted by landlord’s groups. The province chose to ignore the warnings.

Our province is deeply in debt and it’s credit rating has been cut. It lacks the ability to raise the vast sums needed to build public housing. The best they can do is hand out tents. Anyone advocating  for more public housing should examine closely the state of the public housing we now have.

Voters in Ontario have now turfed the government which created this mess, replacing it with one that claims to be For the People. Our residents and municipal politicians should now demand that the new government bring some sanity back into housing policy.

Hubert Hogle


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