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  • July 30, 2020
  • By Trina Fong
  • Comments Off on Lack of rental units a crisis
  • in Intelligencer News

Lack of rental units a crisis

Intelligencer File Photo Reta Sheppard, housing coordinator of the Hastings Housing Resource Centre, said availability of affordable housing in the Quinte region is "bad."
The Quinte region’s lack of homes available for rent remains at a crisis level, with both affordable and market-rent units in critically short supply.

“It’s bad,” said Reta Sheppard, the housing coordinator of the Hastings Housing Resource Centre, part of Youth Habilitation Quinte Inc.
The problem, she said, is mainly one of availability, not price – “but what’s out there is unaffordable.”
“We just listed a bachelor apartment for $850” per month, said Sheppard. She said rates in Trenton and Belleville are comparable. One-bedroom units are renting for $1,000 per month or more, she said; two-bedroom units range from about $1,100 plus utilities to as much as $1,500 inclusive.
“Trenton, as far as availability, is in more need than Belleville is. But Belleville’s bad, too,” Sheppard said.
“We need housing. We need housing that’s affordable. And I understand landlords have costs too, and I understand it’s not cheap for them to build.”
The rate of construction for rental housing has been declining since about the mid-1990s, said Rod Bovay, Belleville’s director of development and engineering services. He said provincial governments haven’t funded social housing to the degree they did a few decades ago, and Ontario also limits what landlords can charge so “the return just isn’t there to justify the investment.”
For renters, said Bovay, “the supply is constricted, which drives the price up.”
“When you combine it with the fact incomes in Belleville are generally below the provincial average, you have a situation where people finding rental accommodation that they can afford.”
Last spring, Hastings County hired Bridge Street United Church to survey homeless people in Belleville. The majority of the 100 people surveyed cited affordable rental rates, lack of available units and low incomes as their main challenges in finding housing.
At Gleaners Food Bank, operations director Susanne Quinlan’s frustration with housing costs boils over the moment the subject is mentioned.
“A major reason why we’re here is the cost of living – and that’s housing,” she said.
“Our clients are paying up to 75 to 90 per cent of their income for their rent and nobody seems to care.”
She challenged municipal election candidates to make a stand.
“This is something some of the candidates should be saying, not me.”
Quinlan said municipalities should require about 10 per cent of new housing developments to “be affordable for the working poor” and claimed lower-cost fixtures, for example, could lower the housing price.
“I don’t think that’s realistic at all,” said the city’s Bovay.
“It’s not really fair to pin it on the development community when there are so many other factors.”
No officials with the Quinte Home Builders’ Association could be reached Friday for comment.
Builders need to profit, Bovay said, and must be able to recoup costs of land and connecting lots to utilities.
Using cheaper fixtures wouldn’t lower the selling price enough to make a difference, Bovay added.
Yet he also said there are now about 400 rental units in various stages of construction in the city and
that comes after a virtual drought of about a decade.
“I think we’re making good progress. There’s a long way to go,” he said.
City council’s next update of its official plan will, as required by Ontario, have to include a policy on secondary suites. Some municipalities allow secondary apartments to be created within homes anywhere in the municipality; others limit them to certain neighbourhoods.
“There has to be a continuation of federal and provincial programs that support affordable housing.
“Those programs go a long way to help the supply of affordable housing units,” Bovay said.
The housing centre’s Reta Sheppard agreed there are some – but not enough – promising construction projects underway.
She said many people are scrambling to find somewhere to live.
“We probably see anywhere from eight to 12 a day,” Sheppard said.
“I would say 80 to 90 per cent of them are homeless or about to be homeless.
“They try to be proactive,” she said.
Sheppard said some clients start looking about a month before they need a new home but soon discover finding one is difficult, especially if the person has a poor credit rating as do some – but not all – of the centre clients.
Staff try to find temporary solutions, but they’ve lately been encouraging anyone with housing to try to stay put and resolve any issues with their current situation rather than try to find new accommodation.
Even professionals with good incomes are among those having trouble finding places, she said.
Sheppard said the solution to the lack of units may not necessarily rest with government, but action’s needed.
“At some point, somewhere, somebody’s got to step up.”

  • December 11, 2018
  • By dglatiotis
  • Comments Off on Belleville ranks 8th among retirement cities
  • in Intelligencer News

Belleville ranks 8th among retirement cities

Luke Hendry
August 3, 2018

An annual ranking of Canadian cities has placed Belleville in eighth place of the top places in which to retire.

Toronto’s MoneySense magazine ranks municipalities using weighted criteria, including the wealth, economy, health, weather, crime and culture.

And, for what’s believed to be the first time, Belleville also cracked the magazine’s top 100 list of the best places in Canada in which to live, appearing at number 92. It’s also 34th on the list of places with the lowest taxes.

The ranking for retirement-friendly cities handed the top place to Ottawa, followed by Toronto and Oakville.

It listed Belleville’s average value of primary real estate at $333,335 with an average property tax of 2.4 per cent. Though provincial statistics and city staff have noted Belleville has a shortage of family doctors, the magazine pegged the city’s rate of coverage at 137 family doctors per 100,000 residents.

The weather, with a temperature above 20 C on about 117 days per year, also helped Belleville’s showing.

After the top-three cities for retirement came Burlington in fourth place, followed by Carleton Place, Milton and Cornwall. Trailing Belleville were New Tecumseth in Simcoe County, north of Toronto, and Newmarket.

The magazine studied 415 places in choosing its best places to live. Belleville fared the best in the immediate area. Prince Edward County was ranked 118th, Quinte West 151st, Brighton 284th and Trent Hills 286th.

The 20917 list put Belleville in 111th place, Quinte West in 60th, Brighton in 96th and Prince Edward County in 101st.

MoneySense editors did not respond by press time to requests for comment.

At Belleville’s city hall, development and tourism assistant Elisha Purchase welcomed the news.

“I look forward to taking the momentum and running with it,” she said.

She attributed the top-100 showing to recent improvements to public transit, parks, and residential development. She also said Belleville’s central location and improvements to jobs, education and infrastructure could also be factors.

Purchase said such rankings can affect cities directly if cities capitalize upon them “and there is momentum.”

“I would not say that we directly market to attract seniors, however we recognize that we do have a senior population here and we have services that cater directly to their needs,” she said.

Those services include transit upgrades, park and trail access, programs at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre, and active doctor recruitment.

At the Belleville and District Chamber of Commerce, chief executive Jill Raycroft said she and her staff, too, will cite the magazine’s ratings.

“We take advantage of a ranking like that. There’s an opportunity, for sure.

“Anybody who’s reading that now is going to say, ‘Oh, what about Belleville?’

“It also helps our own community have faith,” said Raycroft.

“It’s almost like looking in your own backyard and saying, ‘You know what? It really is pretty nice.’”

Positive ratings have a greater potential to help the cities, she said.

“You kind of get lost in the shuffle when it’s a lesser ranking.”

Favourable rankings are also an incentive for residents and businesses to stay in the area, Raycroft said.

She said Belleville benefits from the Bay of Quinte Regional Marketing Board’s efforts to market the region as a whole, not just municipalities.

Raycroft said Prince Edward County’s known as “the place to play; Belleville’s the place to stay.”

She said it will be interesting to see if the recent ratings become an issue in the municipal election campaign. The election is Oct. 22.

The coverage hinges upon such things as health care, housing and other standards of living, she said, and those topics could fuel debate among prospective city leaders.

“I think our biggest challenge right now is finding people to work – who have skilled trades, who are available,” Raycroft said.

She said she’s continually meeting people who want to come to Belleville to start a business, but there must be a sufficient workforce.

“We have an affordable housing shortage right now,” she added.

Having a strong housing market “is a great problem to have,” continued Raycroft, “but with that kind of vacancy rate it does increase rent and the lack of access to affordable housing.”

The rankings are online at moneysense.ca.

lhendry@postmedia.com

Development a Perfect Fit for Core

March 29, 2018  by James Griffin

Saturday's letter to the editor

BELLEVILLE - Development a perfect fit for core

Vancouver development company FairTradeWorks is proposing a mixed-use retail, six storey 80-unit condominium on the former site of the Quinte Hotel. Belleville is a city on the move with the newly refurbished Yardmen Arena home to a professional hockey team it is time that the city’s downtown catches up.

This is not an idea that is new to Belleville, in 2006 the city introduced its Downtown Master Plan (DMP). The plan was initiated as downtown Belleville’s historic function of being a primary retail and employment centre decreased. The decline over the last four decades has had negative impacts on downtown. The investment of a Vancouver-based company in Belleville’s downtown is just what the city needs, as long as the development conforms to the Official Plan (OP) and, more importantly, the award-winning DMP.

The site has been vacant since December 2012 when the four storey hotel burned down. Under Belleville’s zoning bylaw #10245, the site is currently zoned C2 General Commercial. In Belleville, areas that are zoned general commercial are permitted to have residential units as long as they are above the first floor. Within Belleville’s OP the site is designated as city centre, under this designation the OP encourages developments which will increase the diversity and vitality of the downtown.

The DMP breaks downtown Belleville into four distinct districts. The site falls within The Village district. A key objective for The Village district is to ensure new developments enhance east-west connections to facilitate greater pedestrian traffic by reinforcing physical and visual linkages between neighbourhoods. The DMP suggests that mixed-use, multi-storey developments be built and designed which correspond to the urban profile that is consistent with the guidelines for mid-rise buildings in the plan.

In my opinion, due to the guidelines which have been outlined, the development is excellent land use planning for Belleville. The development will help shape downtown Belleville into the place it once was. The proposed six storey condo follows the guidelines for the city centre as laid out in the OP such as encouraging residential mixed-use compact developments. The development will conform to the city centre designation by enhancing the downtown core as a major focus of economic activity. After a review of the zoning bylaw, it is clear that the building should stay a C2 General Commercial zone designation, as this designation is most apt for a mixed-use building with commercial at grade and residential above.

The development does an excellent job in following the guidelines laid out in the DMP, as the development would increase east-west connections by facilitating greater pedestrian traffic through the amenities on the lower level, along with reinforcing a sense of community within the neighbourhood.

My concluding thoughts are that this investment by a Vancouver-based company is a fantastic opportunity for the entire Belleville community. Their investment, which is founded upon terrific land use planning guidelines, is what makes the development significantly beneficial for Belleville.

James Griffin/Intelligencer.ca

View article here...

 

  • June 27, 2017
  • By dglatiotis
  • Comments Off on Former Quinte Hotel site set for condos
  • in Intelligencer News

Former Quinte Hotel site set for condos

Another construction project will soon be hitting the downtown core.

On Saturday construction services and development company, FairTradeWorks, released that it had closed the deal on the former site of the Quinte Hotel.

“We are glad to finally share our excitement with the city and its residents,” stated company president, Jim Perkins, adding there is a market for new condos in downtown Belleville in conjunction with new retail space.

We know many people had great ideas about what should happen with the site,” he stated. “We listened to the ideas but it all came down to feasibility and whether the project made good financial sense.”

Current plans are for a condo building with one and two bedroom modern suites with amenities along with retail spaces at street level.

Perkins said the condos will be quality built, modern and centrally located, adding that downtown living in the major city centres is “the place to be as it is the heartbeat of the community”.

Perkins said the architectural process has already started and, once it is complete, will be presented to the city for feedback. He also pointed out all new developments take time to negotiate to ensure the structures meet city as well as real estate requirements. Only after plans have been approved, can construction begin and pre-sales start.

The project site at the corner of Bridge and Pinnacle has been vacant since the Quinte Hotel burned in December 2012.

FairTradeWorks is also currently building a $2 million senior’s living building in Marmora. The 10- unit, 65+ building is expected to be available for rent next spring and will be called ‘The Bleeckers’. It will also have a 2345 sq. ft. retail space available for lease.

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