I am writing in response to Rosemarie and Chester Letkeman’s letter to the editor (Nov. 30) and in support of the six city councillors who made a fiscally responsible decision to accept $1 million for an asset that the city had at their disposal. I am also writing to thank Coun. McCrae for standing up for the people of Brandon in stating that affordable housing initiatives should not be done unilaterally by the mayor.
Brandon City Council has adopted a mandate to increase affordable housing in Brandon; they have even set aside resources to accomplish this. It is great that there have been resources made available to provide affordable housing for some families in Brandon. My employer, Vionell Holdings, provides three- and four-bedroom townhouses for between $717 and $730 a month, is this not affordable housing? The thank you the company received for providing this housing was a $16.71 tax increase per unit per month ($200 per year per unit) and additional garbage collection costs, knowing that these costs would be passed on to the tenants.
If the additional costs of say $300 per year are passed on to these tenants, rent would be approximately $742 and $755 respectively. Is this still affordable? (Likely, but it is less affordable) I understand the theory behind increasing taxes and reducing services, however I have a major problem when the savings is to subsidize other new housing projects. The problem with downloading costs to landlords is they eventually get passed through to tenants. By doing this the city is reducing the amount of affordable units currently in the marketplace (many of which are low due to rent controls already in place by the province). The city’s programs seem to be providing very few new units for families, and their other policies are reducing the amount of existing affordable places in the city.
The notion that the city’s mandate is affordable housing ignores the fact that there is demand for seniors housing, as supported by the waiting lists at many complexes in the city. (Seniors are people, too; they vote and pay their share of taxes.) Any units added to the rental spectrum free up housing in the city. For example, if a couple moves into an assisted-living complex, their home will be available for a family (new homeowner) and free up a rental unit; the more rental units available in the market will keep prices lower through supply and demand. Even if a high-end complex is constructed, some residents moving in may choose the higher-end unit over a more affordable one, leaving the more affordable one available for someone who can’t afford the luxury unit.
In Calgary, there is an attainable housing program (not subsidized housing) that provides families with a down payment (one time only) to purchase a single-family home or condo when they would otherwise qualify for a mortgage through CMHC if it were not for the down payment. This program is along the lines of helping a family out, then the family helping the city out by paying taxes for years to come. If a family makes less than $70,000 per year, they could apply for a down payment of up to $10,000 to purchase their own home.
This would provide families with pride of ownership and help build the city’s tax base to continue contributing to these programs. Programs like the Attainable Housing Program are certainly within reach of the current resources already being allocated for housing programs by the city. I am sure there are obstacles in administering an attainable housing program like the one in Calgary, but it could help reduce some of the barriers to entry for new homeowners and strengthen the tax base.
I appreciate that our city council cares about Brandonites and their basic need for shelter. I do believe that the housing shortage is a three level problem (municipal, provincial and federal). If the city is adamant on subsidizing rental units, I would be willing to sit down and hear how we could work together on a project to achieve a goal of providing new affordable (subsidized) rental units in the marketplace. In the meantime, I would like to see the city review their policies related to tax increases and shifting costs like garbage to landlords, then on to tenants, as it is counterproductive to their mandate of affordable housing.