Why is the supply of housing not meeting the demand and why is it so difficult to create housing in Peterborough?
Supply & Demand
The high demand and low supply ranked Peterborough the most overvalued housing market in all of Ontario last spring.1 The demand comes from federal immigration and desire to live in our beautiful community. The supply is created by the private sector working with the municipality to create housing options for our community. But the supply is not meeting the demand. The supply has not met the demand for decades in Peterborough.
Peterborough is the 17th largest urban center in the province, and 32nd largest of 41 census metropolitan areas in the country. 2 However, few residents in Peterborough would view the city as an urban center. The provincial growth plan has mandated a 50% population increase by 2051 for Peterborough. 3 The increase is to be achieved through densification, which is in the City of Peterborough’s Official Plan. 4 To meet that target 900 new residential units would need to be built every year. That is a far greater number than the city has ever built in the past. In fact, less housing is being built now than 30 years ago in the city.
What has changed in the past 30 years?
In the 1990s there were less provincial regulations for housing to be built. The provincial government provides a standard set of rules and guidelines that each municipality must follow for new housing. Each municipality also creates their own local by-laws. And commenting agencies review all new home applications before approval. For example, conservation authorities enforce provincial legislation to ensure that local natural heritage and watersheds are protected. As new legislation is added, old rules often contradict new rules, creating unnecessary red tape.
Staffing levels at the City of Peterborough’s building and planning departments have been a longstanding issue. The number of different builders has decreased, reducing competition. Thousands of skilled trades workers are close to retirement and there are shortages of tradespeople.5 There are many opportunities for young people to get into skilled trades, municipal planning, and engineering.
New housing includes fees to pay for needed infrastructure to go along with growth. Those fees have increased by 880% in the past 20 years in Peterborough, and the municipal infrastructure, like roads, has not kept pace. Also, the cost of land is now higher than the cost to build a new home.
Inefficient Municipal Processes
Delays stem from both provincial and municipal regulations. Municipalities control housing timelines through the official plan, zoning by-laws, variances and building permits required for new housing.6 Peterborough is in an excellent position to make big changes with provincial funding from the Steamline Development Approval Fund.7 Bill 109 allows the professional planning staff at City Hall to approve site plans, as per the City’s Official Plan without redundant council votes.8
The “as is” approach to housing has seen a decline in units available and lack of growth in Peterborough. There are opportunities for improvement to create a vibrant more affordable community in the City of Peterborough. Everyone needs to agree that we need more housing in Peterborough and also take action to create more housing. Collaboration is needed so our children can afford to live in Peterborough when they grow up.
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