Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti believes the lack of affordable housing within the community has reached a crisis point.
Tackling the issues remains one of his top priorities this year, which is why he will be holding what he calls a “major Affordable Housing Summit” this spring.
“We really have reached a crisis point where young people with decent paying jobs, professional people can’t afford to buy a 500-square-foot home,” said Scarpitti, who will be hosting members of the federal and provincial governments along with various stakeholders in the development community at the local submit scheduled for Friday, March 27. “When we’ve reached that point in the dynamic of the housing and supply chain in the GTA, it is serious.”
Scarpitti says they’ve held more than two sessions with stakeholders and also met with officials from both the provincial and federal governments, along with the region. The effort has been there to work together to address the serious issue.
“It’s a complex issue, so there isn’t a silver bullet that says, ‘Do this and everything will be OK,'” the Markham mayor added. “The fact is that all levels of government are going to have to work together.”
An Ontario Real Estate Association/Nanos survey done late last year found that 58.7 per cent of non-millennial Ontarians agree or somewhat agree that home ownership is unaffordable in their neighbourhood.
Scarpitti explained there have been positive things that have happened provincially and federally and we may see more done in the federal budget related to easing the housing market in the GTA.
His aim with the Affordable Housing Summit is to bring everyone together and look at a comprehensive approach to try and deliver more affordable housing within Markham.
“There’ll be things like inclusionary zoning, the way in which we process affordable housing projects to some of the financial relieves that the province and federal government is giving to developers who will come forward with affordable housing projects,” Scarpitti said. “But hopefully try to put together a package when we’re finished the housing summit that will, if not deliver – because we really have this year and a couple of more years and I wish the process wasn’t as long – affordable housing units in this term of office.
“Certainly approve them and start them, and be under construction with more affordable projects within the city itself.”
Growing the supply of social and affordable housing for low-income Canadians is crucial, as will be dealing with an aging population and ensuring seniors have place they can retire to.
Scarpitti said that it’s providing a range of housing and some of that is for residents who want to stay in the community and either can’t or don’t want to anymore look after a bigger home and the property that comes with it.
“Again part of that is to look at ways we can keep sort of age in place and try to look at both providing different housing opportunities and potentially looking at new programs that allow seniors to stay in place,” he explained. “I know some of this happens in informal ways where seniors can get together and potentially share a home if that works out for them, but it’s making sure there’s a variety of housing within the community that look after the range of needs within the community as well.”
Dealing with all these housing issues will be key, but the Markham mayor believes that front and centre at the Affordable Housing Summit must be working together to address the need of young people.
“There’s no doubt we need seniors housing,” he said. “We need housing for special needs, residents in our community, but there is no doubt that the biggest impact right now is being felt by young people that are looking for their first home and whether that’s buying or renting and their inability to do that within in the market place in the GTA.”
Photo: With the affordable housing having reached what he calls a crisis point, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti will be hosting an Affordable Housing Summit in late March.