There was good turn out for Kenora's Housing Forum yesterday. The city and guest presenters spoke about the future growth of the area, identified issues and challenges that are creating some road blocks in the process, clarified some terms, and identified plans they have to help with the housing issue.

One of the things addressed by the city was clarifying their role, versus the role of the Kenora District Services Board. Some of the housing issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the services board include the emergency shelter and social housing. The City is in charge of Market Rentals, High Market Rental Ownership, and Market Home Ownerships.

Adam Smith is the Special Projects Research Officer for the City of Kenora and clarified that they do still work together.

"We'll always be working in partnership with KDSB. We will always be mutually reinforcing each other in a lot of different initiatives. That does not mean that we work in isolation, we'll always be working in partnership on a lot of different projects," he explained.

Smith also explained what is meant by the term affordable housing.

"Under our Community Improvement Plan we define affordable housing as 80 per cent of the average market brand, or market price, for the area" he said.

In terms of rent, if the average market rate for the area was $749, when you apply the 80 per cent bench mark the affordable rate would be around $600. For housing, if the average price is $280,000 and affordable price would be $208,000, under the City's Community Improvement Plan.

The city stressed that they can see the housing issue facing the community, and reassured those in attendance that they are working on ways they can help.

The main issues identified within the city were; lack of multi residential homes, affordability, and the age of the homes already in existence.

Smith stated that only 16 per cent of homes in the area are under the age of 27. This is another issue, the decaying of the already existing homes in the area.

In 2011, of the homes built in 1946 or earlier 35 per cent needed repairs, and in 2017 that number jumped to 42 per cent. So, even if a Kenora resident can afford to buy a home in the area, there is the cost of renovations to make the home comfortable and livable to consider.

Some of the ways the city is working to help prospective builders, as well as future and current residents is the availability of grants and incentives. Cash in hand, and soft cost assistance for those looking to build or renovate.

Smith also identified the new multi residential tax rate, which came out of Ontario's Fair Housing Action Plan. It applies to residences of 7 units or more however, the tax break only applies to new builds.

Smith also stressed that they are always advocating on behalf of the community. He said they, and the KDSB, are largely dependant on provincial funding and are underfunded. He said they often travel to conferences where they can meet with provincial ministers and advocate on behalf of the city for more funding.

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