Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada

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Trying to make an impact in a rocky housing market

Even before the latest boom in prices, affordable housing was at a premium in this area of the province. The spillover effect of unsustainable prices in Toronto has expanded well beyond the GTA, worsening the situation.

The townships aren’t immune, with housing costs that often exceed the region’s cities. And when it comes to the rental market, supply has always been very limited. In Woolwich, there has been some expansion in housing for seniors and, now, MennoHomes is taking applications for units at its Elmira project. In a similar vein, the first Habitat for Humanity project in Wellesley Township was up for discussion at council this week.

Using volunteer labour and donations of money and materials, Habitat constructs homes for qualified families. Often, this is the only route for partner families to gain home ownership. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund, which is used to build more houses.

One a rental, the other ownership, both projects take aim at the affordability gap, which is a growing issue across much of the province and, indeed, the country.

Last year, for instance, a survey by the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association found more than 171,000 Ontario households are waiting for a home that they can afford, roughly split into thirds between single adults/couples (37 per cent), seniors (32 per cent) and families (31 per cent). Waiting lists have grown by more than 45,000 households in 12 years, and applicants face an average wait of nearly four years. In many communities, the wait is much longer.

Of course, there are far more people finding themselves priced out of the market, particularly where buying a home is concerned.

Rising prices for land push up the cost of development. Rising prices for both new and resale homes discourage buyers and increase the debt load on those in the game. Rising prices drive up rental costs at a time when fewer units are being built and demand already outstrips supply.

To help cool the market here, the federal government has been tightening up borrowing rules that reduce the risk of people defaulting on their mortgages and help ease the unsustainable upward pressure on home prices. A series of reports has raised doubts about the sustainability of a decade-long upward trend that slowed only marginally during the worst of the 2008 recession.

Led by ongoing hikes in Vancouver and Toronto, average home prices remain far out of reach of many residents.

None of that sounds sustainable. Some economists and market watchers are waiting on a correction. Still, there are plenty of us who see housing as a safe investment, unlike, for instance, the stock market, which remains volatile. Both markets are a gamble, however, and both were and continue to be heavily manipulated by the financial sector, the very industry responsible for the systemic corruption at the root of our economic woes.

In the long-term, decreasing demand is the best option. For that, a falling population is key.

As demand falls, so too do prices for both rentals and sales. Likewise, there is less call for new construction, the best way to halt the sprawl municipalities decry all the while reveling in the increased revenues.

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