Time to move on proposals

Housing is needed – it’s as simple as that. The answer to meeting that demand is far more complex.

Provincial regulations, professional preferences, local planning authorities and neighbourhood desires make it pretty tough to get anything done. For proof of that, let’s look at two local developers and their attempts to bring rental housing to the downtown cores of Elora and Fergus.

Local investors have spent considerable time and funds getting to the point of an official public meeting. There, as suspected from community comments over the past dozens of months, opponents to their plans raised issues from altering the heritage setting, to scale of the proposal and heights that would appear out of place. Parking and traffic issues were also raised. 

While all of those worries have merit and should receive due consideration, it is past time to move on and see decisions made.

And guess what, not everyone is going to be happy.

Change is something all communities across the county are facing. Tearing down structures of dubious value and replacing them with structures that meet modern needs can be a positive in a community. In-fill development and re-purposing lands is long overdue.

Driving through Rockwood recently we were impressed to see some under-used parcels being maximized with residential offerings. Close to shopping and commuter busing makes sense. Similarly, in Mount Forest, a large redevelopment at the north end of town is imposing, but a necessary evolution if the mantra of building up is to replace the concept of growing out. Redevelopment in the north end of Fergus a few years back has added tremendously to the housing stock available to rent. These are private sector investments.

In many of these cases the negativity and perils presented as reasons not to approve the application never came to pass. As we have suggested numerous times over the years, the outcome to perceived change is far less critical than feared and not as awesome as presented. It is just different.

As our society matures and the economic disparity amongst citizens becomes more apparent, ancillary elements of housing will need to change. A segment of the population has shed the notion of home ownership, having a vehicle, needing superfluous square footage, instead choosing to live a more minimalist lifestyle – or having one forced upon them.

Recognizing that, why should demands for parking based on a previous time hamper efforts to provide rental opportunities? If tenants don’t have a car and will sign-off on a parking spot, why insist on archaic standards? 

Access to elevators in multi-storey buildings creates new spaces for residents who, due to age or physical impairment, require such a service. Restricting those who have difficulties with stairs to the ground floor hardly seems equitable. Is there not a sense of compromise if a fourth storey helps offset that cost?

Since the 1980s all levels of government have failed to expand the housing stock and meet demand. They didn’t want to invest in Canadians and relied instead on the private sector. The same conversation can be had about retirement homes and seniors lodging, which factor mightily into housing stock strategies.

In the end, these two local investors are willing to take a gamble on providing much-needed housing. The concepts may need to be tweaked or fine-tuned, but at least they are trying to do something to meet housing needs locally.

Answers need to flow soon.