The work that commenced last spring on the Attainable Housing Project continued with a public open house held at the Rotary Complex on November 23rd. Representatives Stantec Consulting, Baker Planning Group and investStratford were on hand to answer questions from the public in attendance.
Stratford is seen as a desirable city to live in as the largest centre in the region for employment opportunities, education, commercial services and recreation. Over recent years, particularly throughout the pandemic, prices have risen - presenting a challenge to find suitable, adequate, and available housing for the local market. This lack of housing has directly impacted the ability of businesses to recruit the qualified employees they need in the community, thus it is a two-fold problem.
To address the growing problem, Stratford has undergone the initial steps to develop an Attainable Market Housing Community Incentives Toolkit (CIT) and Attainable Market Housing Pilot Project to encourage the generation of more housing. The city has developed a definition of attainable housing as: 1. Affordable to the income level of the household; 2. Available for that household; 3. Appropriate to the circumstances of the household including of suitable quality; 4. Actionable in that it is an option the household can act upon.
An anonymous survey was issued in October to help the project team understand more about how the city can increase the supply of new attainable housing in Stratford. Based on that survey, the project team was able to assess participant housing circumstances, and factors influencing choice of housing. Respondents were able to identify suggestions for the framework of the plan, including identifying responsibilities, barriers to adequate housing, and programs that should be implemented to keep housing attainable.
Armed with this information, the team has now looked to the public for consultation on a Strength/Weakness/Opportunities/Threat (SWOT) and economic opportunities assessment. Using post-it notes, attendees were able to add to already identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Their input was also sought to assist in the development of a definition of attainable that is actionable for the purposes of future proposals. For the purposes of the existing Official Plan, only the term affordable is defined, not attainable. This is important as the Official Plan will be coming up for review, and having a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and CIT in place will feed into the new document.
â€śThe incentive toolkit, should it be approved by Council, would align to the Cityâ€™s official plan. The planning team from the City of Stratford is a part of the internal working group for this project so will be looking at where housekeeping amendments to the Official Plan will be needed,â€ť explained Joani Gerber, ceo of investStratford.
To date, forty-five surveys have been completed and there were about thirty to thirty-five people that attended the open house. The goal of the open house was to engage in dialogue the issues surrounding attainable housing and to obtain feedback from the public about potential financial tools to encourage a greater supply of housing.
â€śIn combination with the stakeholder consultations, the team has received valuable input and feedback that will assist in formulating the next steps and recommended actions,â€ť adds Gerber
The public can expect the team to continue to engage residents as the next phases of the Attainable Housing project get underway. It is anticipated that there will be further public engagement on the issue through both a formal public meeting of Council in the new year and the launch of an interactive campaign to bring attention and action on attainable housing.
â€śWe will continue to use the Engage Stratford platform on the cityâ€™s website along with social media channels on both the city pages and investStratford,â€ť said Gerber.
Those interested in further information or to keep up to date on the Attainable Housing project can navigate online to www.engagestratford.ca under featured projects. There you will find the survey, and the display panels of information from the public open house.