A drama is unfolding: A Tale of Two Simcoes.
On the one hand, indicators suggest tremendous growth and attraction to the County. Housing starts have been booming. Median income has been healthy. Economic development plans are being activated. Histori- cally, unemployment rates are below the provincial average with a rate in 2006 of 5.2% compared to 6.1% for the province.1
On the other hand, indicators suggest that although new rental properties have been developed through- out the County there has been a net loss of rental stock over the past 15 years. Rental rates are outpacing inflation, even in communities where the vacancy rate would suggest a “renter’s market”. A single individual on Ontario Works would need to spend 108% of his/her monthly income to afford to live in the County. Demands for social housing have been increasing, especially for one-bedroom units. Operating agreements for some social housing buildings have an expiration date just around the corner. The rate of low-income households with children under 6 years of age is well above the provincial average in several areas of the County including Midland (18.5%), Tiny (17.4%), Tay (15.7%) and Penetanguishene (14.8%). The demands for homeless services and housing assistance services are at a rate never previously seen.
The time for action has come. Housing in Simcoe County is an issue that transcends municipal boundar-
ies and the County is therefore best positioned to lead the implementation of this community-driven Strategy. However, the County cannot do it alone. All partners including local municipalities, other levels
of government, community based non-profit and private sectors have important roles to play to ensuring the development of affordable housing for all residents. Recognizing that other orders of government are unlikely to provide new investments for the implementation of this Strategy, new and creative methods and partnership need to be developed to ensure success. This includes recognizing the important role that the private sector already plays with respect to housing our residents such as private developers, homebuilders, real estate companies, landlords large and small, property managers, and even the agricultural community which is known to provide housing for its workers. If we are to be successful in meeting our objectives,
the private sector must not only be consulted, but be actively engaged in identifying barriers and finding solutions. Furthermore, the community needs to come together to support developers by advocating for change when barriers to the development of affordable housing are identified. The private sector is a critical pillar in fulfilling the objectives of this plan and the inclusion of this sector on the Working Group overseeing the development of an implementation plan is vital to its success.
The 10-Year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Prevention Strategy will guide the County of Simcoe and its municipal partners from 2014 to 2024. This strategic document outlines evidence-informed approaches and a shared community vision of what actions are needed to effectively address housing and homeless- ness needs across the County. Through the establishment of people-centered priorities for housing and homelessness services, this Strategy ensures that the County of Simcoe, as the designated Consolidated Municipal Service Manager, is well positioned to integrate and direct resources to meet the specific needs of its residents.