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City to consider $20K annual increase to housing reserve

Boosting annual contribution 'prudent' as potential projects come to light, committee says

The city is being asked to increase reserve contributions to better deal with the housing crisis.

The affordable housing committee is requesting an annual increase of $20,000. It would go to the affordable housing reserve.

The city currently contributes $80,000 per year to the reserve, which has a balance of $200,000.

“As demand for affordable housing increases and the number of viable applications for projects begins to increase, it is foreseeable that the existing reserve could very quickly be depleted,” the committee wrote in a report to council committee.

“The affordable housing committee recommends that the City of Orillia should do everything that it can to encourage investments in affordable housing, and limited reserve funding could significantly hinder those efforts.”

Committee members have had “preliminary discussions” with groups that could potentially be proponents of affordable housing projects. They include the County of Simcoe, with its housing hub at the former Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute property, the Lighthouse, Raising the Roof, which has plans for affordable housing at the post office building, Regent Park United Church, and St. David Anglican-Lutheran Church.

“As there is a likelihood that some of those projects may seek financial assistance through an affordable housing incentive application, additional funding may be prudent,” the committee wrote.

The report noted the importance and urgency of creating affordable housing units, especially at a time when the costs of buying and renting are soaring.

According to the Barrie and District Association of Realtors, residential sales in Orillia increased by 58.2 per cent in the first half of 2021. The average sale price in June was $624,874, representing a 38.9 per cent increase over the previous year.

During Monday’s council committee meeting, affordable housing committee chair Cam Davidson pointed out the Barrie area is the third-most expensive place in Canada in which to rent an apartment. He presumed the situation was similar in Orillia.

Council committee voted to refer the request to upcoming budget talks.

“I’m really hoping this gets approved at budget,” said Coun. Jay Fallis, one of the council representatives on the affordable housing committee.

“It’s a significant number, but it’s a small step in the right direction.”