Welcome to the Municipal Blog relating to the 5 Year Review of the Municpality of Meaford Official Plan. Please note that this blog is not intended to replace formal public consultation under the Planning Act but is instead meant to be a forum for information sharing on topics and ideas relating the review and community planning in general. Feel free to post comments or questions. Also be sure to visit the Municipal Webste (here) for additional information about the Official Plan Review.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Just Jargon: 'Affordable Housing'

There are a number of different definitions of Affordable Housing – I have included several for your consideration. These definitions are a very clear example of Planning Jargon – which is why I’ve excerpted the related ‘dollar values’ from the recent County of Grey Housing Study to try and paint a clearer picture of what we’re up against.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) define “affordable housing” as follows:

The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income. Housing which costs less than this is considered affordable.

The Provincial Policy Statement Defines “Affordable” as:

a) In the case of ownership housing, the least expensive of:
1. Housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
2. Housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area.
b) In the case of rental housing, the least expensive of:
1. A unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
2. A unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area.

Low and moderate income households are defined as the bottom 60th percentile of household income distribution in a regional market.

What does this mean in Meaford?

As explained on the County of Grey website, in 2010 the County Housing and Planning departments undertook a joint Housing Study. The Study provided ‘a snapshot’ of the current housing ownership and rental levels within the County, while also projecting the County’s affordable and social housing needs to the year 2031.

County of Grey Housing Study - PHASE 1: Demand and Supply Analysis
County of Grey Housing Study - PHASE 2: Programs and Policies Report

Using the definitions of ‘Affordable’ within the Provincial Policy Statement,  the Housing Study identified that for Meaford, an affordable dwelling for purchase has a maximum sale price of $187,600 while an affordable rental unit would be priced between $500-$800/month dependant on unit type and size.

The study also notes that the 2009 average resale listing for homes in Meaford was $268,821 and the average rent $880.

Note the gap between what is considered ‘affordable’ and what exists. Meaford is identified as one of the three Grey County communities with the largest under-supply of affordable housing units.

Take home message:  Meaford needs more affordable housing.

But how much is ‘more’?

The Study highlights that the demand for new ownership and rental affordable units is equal to over 50% of all new housing units forcast for the County by 2031. And that is just to maintain current local affordable housing levels.

This is, to say the least, concerning - particularly considering our higher than average proportion of older adults and seniors who may have challenges such as accessibility requirements and fixed incomes. In addition, approximately 66% of our households presently house 2 or fewer residents (sharing household expenses between fewer incomes) and it can be expected that a number of our older residents will experience a shift from a two-person household to a one-person household as they, and their partners, age.

Up to the Challenge

County and Local planners have clearly received the message  that we need to be looking at all available tools to support the creation of affordable housing.

Through the 5 Year Review of the County’s Official Plan the County has included general direction relating to housing and are proposing a further amendment (Draft – Official Plan Amendment #110) to implement some of the key recommendations arising from the Housing Study.

Through the 5 Year Review of Meaford’s Official Plan, we will update our policies to conform to the County’s updates and will look to create a new Housing section of our Plan.

The proposed ‘Housing’ section will address:
  • Definitions of affordability
  • The use of ‘bonus zoning’ to obtain affordable housing through new development   approvals, where appropriate
  • Support for a wide range of affordable and social housing options and encouragement  to the building & development industry
  • Monitoring practices to keep tabs on our progress
  • A broader permission for the creation of accessory apartments, secondary units to encourage land owners to provide additional affordable units in an efficient manner, and to provide an opportunity to home owners for additional income to support the affordability of their own homes
While this is a start, it is my opinion that there is the need for a great deal of partnership and creativity to find solutions to conquer the demand we are facing. Do you have ideas? Do you know of innovative examples that could be explored in Meaford? Are you interested in creating an accessory apartment or secondary unit and need some guidance? 


  1. mikeosborn@sympatico.ca4 April 2012 at 11:01

    I am a little surprised that Affordable Housing is an issue here in Meaford. Prices here are low, and much lower than Thornbury and Collingwood. If a significant amount of Affordable is built here, I am afraid that Meaford will become the dumping groun for the poorer people of these two towns. My assertion is that we should do this ONLY if Collingwood and Thornbury do likewise.

  2. Hi Mike, Thank you for your comment.I agree that the development of affordable housing needs to be a focus for all communities, not only Meaford.

    When we speak about 'significant' amounts of housing I try to keep in mind that to just maintain our existing service level we'd need to meet a target of 50% of all new construction being affordable - and given our current undersupply (relative to the income levels of our current residents) I don't expect that we will become an affordable housing capital of the County, mind you additional affordable housing options would perhaps allow for a better quality of life for some of our existing residents who are currently stretching to make ends meet.

    I would note that Town of the Blue Mountains shares a spot with Meaford in the three Grey County communities with the greatest under-supply of affordable housing units. They have made recent efforts to study this issue throught the completion of a local Housing Needs Study in 2010 available at:


    Happy to keep the conversation going!