A housing crunch that is seeing more and more people living in single-family homes is spawning a parking crunch that is making a bad situation worse in west Orillia, a resident says.
Bre Plue, who lives on Diana Drive, says she can see eight homes from her front door that require additional parking space, and out of desperation are parking on their front lawn, which breaks the zoning bylaw and the city’s parking bylaw
“Two doors down from me there are six people who live in a five-bedroom house. They have four cars and two parking spots. The only reason they all live there is because they can’t afford to live independently,” she said.
Plue herself has a homeless 18-year-old living with her and she parks her car on the front lawn.
“Where else do we park? We can’t park on the streets, we can’t park in the parking lots, we can’t use Costco, so where do we park?” she asked.
“It would be nice if a family of four lived in one house with two parking spots that took care of mom and dad’s two vehicles, but that’s not the way that we are living now," said Plue. "There are multiple families and large families living in single-family homes that aren’t serving single families anymore.”
Plue wants the city to step up to help support people and families experiencing the impacts of the housing crisis.
“When you start looking at $30 or $40 a ticket, it adds up fast, and it’s enough to potentially threaten someone’s housing, their food, ability to work, all of it,” she said.
Coun. Mason Ainsworth says he is aware of the issue.
“There is clearly a housing crisis going on, and to be quite frank it was happening before COVID, and it’s been compounded even more by COVID,” he said.
“There are lots of families who are doubling or tripling up in that capacity, younger people are living at home longer, and it’s so hard to get a place in Orillia to rent let alone buy," said the second-term Ward 3 councillor.
Ainsworth says the parking restrictions are in everyone’s best interest if they want the roads to be cleaned during the winter. He encourages residents to explore all their options before taking the parking infraction.
“Carpool with your family, talk to a neighbour who maybe doesn’t use all their spots, talk to a company to see if you can rent a space from them for the winter, there are quite a few different options out there, but you have to be creative,” he said.
Ainsworth says the city has a program in place to help residents expand their parking space.
“People have options, there are things you can look at, but parking on the lawn is not one of them. It’s prohibited by the bylaws for a reason: you don’t want everybody at their house parking on their lawn because it would look terrible, and I think people would agree with that,” he said.
For people looking for suggestions or help with their limited parking issues, Ainsworth recommends they email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I had a guy who lives in West Ridge reach out about four months ago who didn’t have enough space to park all his vehicles because his garage was too small for their big truck. So, I helped him through that process and now they are putting in some more driveway,” he explained.
Shawn Crawford, the city’s manager of legislative services, says he doesn’t believe that affordable housing was a consideration when any bylaw restrictions related to front yard parking were enacted.
“All of these restrictions have been in place for several years and are primarily intended for esthetic reasons and to help maintain property values. Vehicles parking on areas not designed or intended for parking is not esthetically pleasing, particularly as damage occurs to lawns over time,” he said in a written statement to OrilliaMatters.
“As part of the land use planning approval process, developers must prepare an overall stormwater management plan and lot grading plans. Those plans address how stormwater is dealt with, and part of the design is contingent upon grassed or landscaped areas to allow natural water infiltration," Crawford explained.
"If a whole yard is paved over to accommodate parking, we would have significant impacts when major storm events happen. The zoning bylaw does not permit a resident to pave their entire front yard area.”