The Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee (NAHC) hosted a Mayoral Candidates Debate in September. The elected Mayors of the seven-member municipalities make up County Council and decide on affordable housing in the region.
The NAHC invited municipal candidates to submit written responses to the same questions asked at the live debate.
Nicole Beatty’s responses to these questions are below. In addition, all candidates’ responses are available on NAHC members’ websites and social media.
What does “affordable housing” mean to you? Where would you find affordable housing in your municipality? In Northumberland County?
We are all familiar with the technical definitions of affordable housing as outlined by entities such as the CMHC: “housing is considered ‘affordable’ if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income.” Affordable housing and social housing are two different parts of the housing continuum.
I like how the website Local Housing Solutions frames it: “Affordable housing is housing that a household can pay for while still having money left over for other necessities like food, transportation, and health care. That means what’s considered ‘affordable’ depends on a household’s income.”
In a world facing an affordability crisis, I’m concerned that many folks don’t have access to housing or are at risk of losing their current housing. Therefore, I support the notion that housing is a fundamental human right.
To me, affordable housing includes home ownership and rentals. Various programs and support levels consider a person’s or family’s income.
It’s the provision of housing by private and non-profit organizations supported by government funding and community philanthropy. It’s about dignity – having access to a safe home in our community.
Honestly, I don’t think I could if I had to find housing today in Cobourg. Whether abysmal vacancy rates or high rents, I would be highly stressed about where I would live. I find it very concerning when someone like my mom, who is in her late sixties and can afford to pay rent, is told she has to wait for 7 to 10 years for housing.
I acknowledge that many developers and housing providers in Cobourg are working on adding affordable units to our local rental stock through mix-use developments. If we continue to attract, expedite and incentivize these projects, they will continue contributing significantly to Cobourg’s housing options.
The 2019 Northumberland-County-Affordable-Housing-Strategy proposes that 900 new rental units be built in ten years and allocates them to each municipality. How would you work to build those units or more in your municipality?
If re-elected, the following would be my priorities as a member of the Council:
- Continue to leverage the community improvement program to incentivize the creation of new rentals in Cobourg.
- Work closer with Northumberland County to identify ways to leverage our respective CIP programs and housing strategies to maximize building potential.
- Accelerate the first phase of the Tannery District (the town-owned lands), so we have shovel-ready lands for housing projects.
- Support the concept of tiny homes or modular units.
- Support land use recommendations to use a portion of the parking lot at the former Memorial Arena for an innovative, affordable housing project (an outcome of the Town’s Municipal Land Inventory Review).
- Collaborate with the County and housing providers to explore the best land use options for the pending purchase of the former West Field on Durham Street (after a significant portion of the land has been dedicated open space for protection of the West Beach, boardwalk, and surrounding habitat/environment).
- Continue to advocate that housing be included as one of the many uses for a portion of the former Brookside property (part of a multipurpose/multi-use site plan).
- Explore options (if any) that a lower-tier municipality may have to activate inclusionary zoning.
Which initiatives would you propose or recommend supporting mixed housing options such as tiny homes?
I am one of the founders of Think Tiny Homes Northumberland, and I currently serve as the Chair of the Steering Committee. I fully support tiny homes as innovative solutions to the affordability crisis. Proven models across Ontario, Canada, and the US demonstrate their effectiveness in providing veteran and transitional housing. Tiny homes could also be a creative option for the manufacturing industry and its employees.
If re-elected, I would resign as Chair of Think Tiny Homes Northumberland.
How will you work with the various levels of government to support increasing housing options within your community?
As mentioned in my reply to Question 2, Cobourg must work closer and more collaboratively with Northumberland County when it comes to increasing housing options, particularly regarding our respective Community Improvement Plans and housing strategies. This means aligning our incentives, funding, and approvals for projects to streamline efficiencies, make the process easier for builders and get more units to market sooner.
The County will be a critical partner in any municipal-owned land that the Town identifies as a potential option for a housing project. As a housing builder and provider of social services, the County is an essential partner. However, Cobourg Council needs to be more vocal at the provincial and federal levels, presenting delegations to our MPP, MP, and relevant Ministries to advocate for housing dollars. In addition, I would like to see Cobourg work with all government levels to initiate a rapid housing project, which means cutting the red tape, becoming shovel-ready, and building housing projects faster. As Deputy Mayor, I would initiate a Cobourg Housing Summit with the idea of bringing representatives from all levels of government, developers and builders, housing providers and the public together to discuss realistic and achievable housing goals for our community.
How would you respond to a resident who objects to zoning changes that encourage secondary suites, intensification, or multi-unit residential building development?
Communication and education are essential.
Through its CIP, the Town has started raising awareness about secondary suites. Gentle intensification is already occurring in the community; however, we need to better educate the public about what it is and how it is in alignment with provincial policies. The Town’s Zoning By-Law permits accessory dwelling units. Zoning changes require a statutory public meeting, which creates an opportunity for dialogue. Public meetings also allow Council members to listen to and engage with neighbourhood concerns. Listening to and receiving feedback from residents must be balanced with sound planning principles and prioritizing the need for innovative housing options.
As Deputy Mayor and a member of the Council, I am responsible for educating and engaging with residents while demonstrating leadership on housing solutions that fulfill planning policies and builds permitted by our Official Plan and Zoning By-Law. By taking a collaborative, team building approach to decision-making I do believe that Council can increase its communications and connections with the public.