Huron County councillors push for expedited housing results

WINGHAM ADVANCE TIMES

HURON COUNTY – Several county councillors spoke up after a presentation by Tim Welch, principal of TWC Consulting Inc, regarding the Huron County Housing Renewal Plan, commenting on how this critical initiative needs to move faster.

The presentation described the plan as an initiative which analyzes the existing county housing building stock and properties to identify opportunities for intensification and redevelopment.

The purpose of the plan is to identify opportunities to create more affordable housing units, to ensure that the county maintains a series of `shovel ready’ properties for housing investment and finally, to position the corporation to respond efficiently and effectively to opportunities relating to affordable housing.

There are five priority sites that Welch said were identified during their investigation that could be made “shovel ready” and prepared for development in Huron County.

These sites were chosen for various reasons, including land already owned, room to accommodate expansion, close location of amenities, walkability, infrastructure available to support new residents, and the suggestion that a mix of rents and people is recommended for each option.

One of the five locations is in Wingham on Edward Street, where 11 one-bedroom units with a common area could be constructed.

The other locations include two sites in Goderich and one each in Exeter and Clinton.

Coun. Dave Jewitt, deputy mayor of Central Huron, said, “I don’t know if we’re in a position where being shovel ready is enough. There is a housing crisis, and action needs to be taken.”

Jewitt added, “I know it will be difficult, I know that it will be expensive in the absence of senior levels of government funding, but from my perspective, we need to pick one of the five and drive it forward? and yes, there will be a cost. But I’m not at a position where shovel ready works.”

Coun. John Grace, mayor of Goderich, agreed with Jewitt, saying, “We are in a crisis, we don’t need to be shovel ready, we need to be building.”

The discussion went on for quite some time, and a motion was put forward to have staff expedite three of the proposed sites and further options available as presented in the Huron County Housing Renewal Plan.

Council also directed staff to prepare a report on a County of Huron Community Improvement Plan.

A press release from the county said the plan would make sure the county has shovel-ready properties ready for affordable housing investment when opportunities arise, such as federal grants, provincial funding, local partnerships, and/or other financing that support the development of affordable housing units.

“Housing is one of the top priorities of county council,” said Denise Van Amersfoort, manager of planning. “The county owns several properties which could accommodate additional affordable housing units and the Housing Renewal Plan ensures those sites are ready for development.”

The Huron County Housing Renewal Plan is guided by the Housing Steering Committee, which has representation from housing and social services, planning and development, economic development, finance, and the CAO.

“Our Housing Steering Committee is working proactively and that’s what we like to see,” said Huron County Warden Glen McNeil. “This plan provides us with a tool that will help guide future decision making and support the development of more affordable housing in Huron.”

You can view the Huron County Housing Renewal Plan by TWC Consulting Inc. online.

For more information on Huron County planning and development services, visit: www.HuronCounty.ca/plandev

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