On Tuesday night, Mayor Pankow presented an interim report on affordable housing availability and options in Smiths Falls created by the Housing Task Force. “There is a dire need for affordable housing in Smiths Falls,” noted the mayor. This report focused primarily on affordable rental housing, and it contained some surprising statistics. A full 42% of Smiths Falls residents rent their homes, yet only 60 new rental units were built in town from 1996-2016, approximately 3 new units per year. In 2019, 64 people informed Lanark County Housing that they were homeless. While we are currently in a housing boom – 300 new rental units are in the planning or building stages – none of the new builds meet the criteria for affordable housing (housing which costs no more than 30% of a household’s gross income). In fact, a whopping 75% of respondents reported that their housing costs more than 30% of their household’s gross income.
The task force presented a list of 17 recommendations to alleviate Smiths Falls’ rental housing shortfall, including implementing policies that lower development costs; permitting secondary dwellings (i.e. a “coach house” or “Granny flat”); reducing minimum lot sizes in residential zones; mixed use zoning; and the appointment of an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to oversee and assist with implementing the recommendations of the Task Force.
Mayor Pankow notes that “we need to make long-term policy changes and substantial effort if we’re going to make significant change in our community.” Councillor McKenna asked what we can do to make a difference immediately. Director of Corporate Services Kerry Costello replied that this report “will form much of our 2021 work plans.” CAO Morris added that “if Council wishes to accelerate this, we can find the funds to do so.” Councillor Alford noted that budget deliberations will begin soon, “so the more info we get, the better.”
The town of Smiths Falls will be seeking public input on affordable housing via their Speak Up Smiths Falls webpage and social media platforms. Have your say at https://speakupsmithsfalls.com/