A big question presented itself at Centre Wellington council and we see it as the start of a recurring theme.
A proposal has been submitted to build a six-storey retirement residence in the north end of Fergus, opposite Walmart. The local bylaw only allows four storeys, forcing the big question: should local communities make accommodations for taller buildings?
In this case, the proposal seeks to maximize the development potential of a relatively small lot surrounded by a mix of uses.
Immediate neighbours are obviously concerned, since a tall structure will alter the enjoyment of their residential property.
As the township reviews this proposal, thought must be given to the risk of setting precedents by changing current zoning standards. It is very much a community issue on that basis, since what is allowed here could well occur elsewhere in the township.
The towns and villages of Wellington County have been lucky to date, in the sense that developers and the buying public have generally had their needs satisfied with low intensity housing. People found houses and builders made a living. In recent years the province forced higher densities to make better use of municipal infrastructure and scarce land.
It has been a pet peeve of ours for two decades now, that the needs of all residents are not being met.
Economics are a big part of it. One need only look at the current realtor listings in Centre Wellington to understand the gravity of the housing crisis. For people with means, there are less than a dozen one-level options consisting of condos and bungalow style homes. Prices range from $359,990 to $799,900, leaving few options for those living on lower incomes.
While the dreams of a little house and white picket fence may still appeal to most people, there is an emerging trend for active busy people that just want a simple, affordable apartment.
It seems to us that a strategy is needed to build new housing types, like apartment-style rentals, or cost-effective condos. Municipal leaders and the planning community should really be thinking about policies that will enable the creation of such housing stock.
Identifying shovel-ready, affordable land for developers is a good start. The key of course is ensuring the plans and location meet community needs and honour the geography and history of where development is slated.
The future is here, let’s make way for some new thinking on housing.