OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to our story, titled 'Affordable housing units could be parked above new transit terminal' published Sept. 13.
I am deeply disappointed by the two Orillia city councillors who objected to building an eight-storey affordable housing complex at the proposed transit terminal site on Peter Street.
With skyrocketing population growth, housing costs, and homelessness, it has never been more important to build high-density housing, despite the objections of the not In my backyard (NIMBY) crowd.
By working with the County of Simcoe to develop affordable housing above this transit terminal, Orillia has a rare opportunity to move quickly. The location is fantastic, too: it makes perfect sense to put housing in areas near transit, especially in the city centre. Pre-zoning the site to allow for eight storeys maximizes the number of affordable units that can be built and minimizes a lengthy re-zoning process. Building up, rather than out, is the only way forward.
And yet, Councillors Smith and Lauer raised tired NIMBY objections to this plan. Smith claims not to “want Orillia to look like little Barrie” but without adding high-density housing, Orillia is on track for exactly the same fate. Barrie is not building fast enough: it has the seventh highest rental rate in Canada, with rent increasing 14.8% year-over-year (figures sourced from Zumper.com), making it unaffordable for many families.
Barrie has also seen increases in its unhoused population, and has struggled to address growing encampments. The current location for the proposed affordable housing complex in Orillia is itself the site of an encampment, which has created public safety concerns due to a recent fire.
If Orillia doesn’t want to turn into “little Barrie” it must do everything it can to make housing more affordable. Allowing for taller buildings in the downtown core — adjacent to transit, no less — is the single most effective thing Orillia could do.
It’s especially ironic that on the day OrilliaMatters reported on these councillors’ objections, the top headline on the CBC news website was, “Rent is going up more than $100 a month right now, pushing average asking price to new record.”
We are in a housing crisis. We need to do everything we can to solve it.