Belleville, ON

Belleville Affordable Housing Report – Actions & Results

Updated

Copy

To get a clear picture of the past and present of affordable housing in Belleville, I pored over operating and capital budgets, meeting minutes, annual housing and homelessness reports and Statistics Canada profiles to collect the relevant data and ended up with over 400 data points. The raw data I collected, along with links to sources, is available in this Google Sheet.

Using this data, I intend to show the following:

  • The growing need for affordable housing options
  • What Belleville council said they would do about this if elected in 2018
  • Actions taken (or not taken) by Belleville and Hastings County’s council over the past 4 years
  • Results so far

Summary

Many municipalities are tackling similar housing affordability crises and more funding is certainly needed from provincial and/or federal sources. However, the solution isn’t to rely on systemic changes or “perfect fit” funding from the provincial or federal levels that will “trickle down to the municipal level”.

Belleville city council has taken a passive, incentive-based approach to getting more affordable and market units built, rather than in an active, involved way like some other municipalities.

Update November 2022: A freedom of information request has been submitted to the city to see what programs the Community Improvement Plan’s funds have gone to.

The current and future precariously housed and homeless are constituents and voters for whom council are responsible for maintaining service level standards and ensuring there is enough housing available.

Timeline

  • Hastings County has been warning of the significant need for affordable housing options since at least 2014
  • The lack of affordable housing has been at a ‘critical level’ since at least 2017 according to their annual reports
  • Belleville Council acknowledged the affordable housing crisis in 2018
  • Council held a housing summit with local stakeholders in 2019
  • Created a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to incentivize the creation of affordable units, offering:
    • Rebates for development charges and building permits of affordable rental units (up to $11,000 per unit)
    • Rebate on additional property taxes for 10 years
    • 50% reduction in development charges for apartment buildings with 6 or more units
  • Belleville continues to allocate the same percent of the budget to social housing, adjusting only for operating expense increases
  • Neither Belleville or Hastings County applied to programs under the federal government’s $50 billion National Housing Strategy, while continuing to “advocate to the upper levels of government for sufficient and permanent funding”

Results

Belleville

  • Rental vacancy rates are the lowest they’ve been since 1992
  • 74 of 2,998 units in new developments in Belleville sampled will meet the definition of affordable
  • Housing starts and completions are mostly flat, with no increase in the proportion of purpose-built rentals
  • 81 affordable and supportive units have been created in the last 4 years with funding from the federal and provincial governments, primarily by non-profits and the Housing Corporation. Another 132 are in the works.

Hastings County

  • Central housing waitlist continues to grow every year and is currently a 15+ year wait
  • The number of social housing units, rent supplements and allowances available in Belleville has been roughly the same for the past 10 years
  • Hastings County has allocated funding from federal and provincial programs to projects in development in Belleville that will create 105 units – 27 of which will meet the definition of affordable

Housing need in Belleville and the surrounding area

In 2021, 9.8% of the population of Belleville were in core housing need, meaning they would have to spend more than 30% of their before-tax income to pay the median rent of local housing that is acceptable (doesn't require major repairs, has enough bedrooms for family size and costs less than 30% of before-tax household income). 2006 data here

The core housing need numbers were lower in the 2021 census compared to 2016. This is due in part to the massive scale of wage supplement and support programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative proposes that in the absence of this income boost, the number of renters households in core need would have substantially increased between 2016 and 2021, and the NHS goal of a reduction in renter housing need would not have been met.

House owners vs renters

Renter households are 4 to 6 times more likely to be in core housing need. In Ontario, 4% of owners (1M people) and 17.2% of renters (1.7M people) live in core housing need while in Belleville, the gap is wider, with 3.3% of owners (1,175) and 23.3% of renters (4,045) meeting the criteria.

Belleville poverty statistics

  • In 2021, 11.7% of households in Belleville were low income based on LIM-AT and 4.6% based on LICO-AT
  • In 2021, there were 8,587 ODSP and 1,723 OW cases (representing 2,971 people) in Hastings County, compared to 8,181 and 2,492 in April 2019, respectively.
  • An estimated 11,480 or 7.9% of Hastings County residents receive social assistance, compared to 6.1% of Ontarians
    • 2% of the population are beneficiaries of OW (up to $733 month)
    • 5.8% of the population are beneficiaries of ODSP (up to $1169 a month)
  • As of January 2022, Belleville had the lowest unemployment rate in Ontario at 3.9%, compared to Ontario's 7.3%

Who is responsible for affordable housing?

According to Ontario's Provincial Policy Statement, 2020:

Planning authorities shall provide for an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area.

Municipalities implement the PPS through their official plans, zoning by-laws and decisions on planning applications.

Belleville's Official Plan, October 2021 states:

The Municipality will accommodate appropriate affordable and market-based housing consisting of a mix of residential types to meet long-term needs. Further, the Municipality is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing units across the City

Who is responsible for social housing?

Municipalities in Ontario are the largest contributors of funding for local housing and homelessness services. In 2018, municipalities funded 77% of social housing services, while provincial funds contributed 14% and federal 9%.

Hastings Local Housing Corporation (HLHC) - a part of Hastings County - is one of Ontario's 47 municipal Service Managers that oversee the administration and provision of social housing services and programs.

The County of Hastings administers the social housing on behalf of the the City of Belleville and 14 member municipalities including Quinte West (Trenton and Frankford Wards), Marmora, Tweed, Bancroft, Deseronto, Madoc, Stirling, Coe Hill, and Tyendinaga. These municipalities send funding to Hastings County to provide the following housing programs on their behalf to qualifying residents:

  • 1,473 owned social (community) housing units
  • 854 cooperative/non-profit units
  • 244 recipients of housing allowances:
    • Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB)
    • Hastings County Direct Delivery Housing Allowance ($354 per month)
    • Hastings County Shared Delivery Housing Allowance ($354 per month)
    • Northern Direct Delivery Housing Allowance ($354 per month)
    • Portable Housing Benefit (PHB) Housing Allowance
  • 288 recipients of rent supplement programs - rent-geared-to-income (RGI) and flat rate:
    • Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) ($210 per month) and its replacement Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI)
    • Canada Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) (RGI) - $96,400 (2021)
    • Regular Rent Supplement Program (RGI)
    • Strong Communities (RGI)
  • Home Ownership Down-Payment Assistance Program (HOAP)

According to Hastings County's 2014 10-year housing and homelessness plan:

Hastings County has been warning of the significant need for affordable housing options since at least 2014.

Their key findings were:

  1. There is significant need for a variety of affordable housing options across the county and the cities of Belleville and Quinte West.
  2. The need to promote the principle of housing first. The housing first approach works. People remain housed longer or permanently and it makes better use of public dollars.
  3. The demand for affordable housing options is remaining consistent as demonstrated by a substantial wait list for social housing. The number of applications for social housing in all categories has increased. Key areas of need for family housing have been identified across the County as well as the cities of Belleville and Quinte West. 

According to Hastings County's 2019, 2020 and 2021 annual reports:

High home buying costs continue to make affordable home ownership difficult to achieve if not impossible for Hastings County’s low income population.

The lack of available affordable housing in Hastings County including the Cities of Belleville and Quinte West is at a critical level. People simply cannot find affordable housing. It will take Hastings County, partner municipalities and the community as a whole working together to address the housing needs in our community.

Affordable housing (rental and ownership) is one of the components that make up a healthy housing stock: 

2018 Belleville council election promises

In the 2018 municipal election, most members of council in Belleville acknowledged the importance of the housing affordability issue:

MemberPosition
Mitch PanciukNumber one priority. $50 billion National Housing Strategy, reducing the number of parking stalls, amount of green space required in new developments
Carol FeeneyIncrease Affordable Housing and Rental Units, lack of affordable housing in our community is a critical issue
Chris MaletteKeenly interested in following the progress of affordable housing
Sean KellyAffordable homes – so families can have a great quality of life with a roof over the head. We need to recognize the need and continue to do more.
Garnet ThompsonContinue our campaign for affordable housing, talk to developers to see if there is an interest in building lower priced housing
Tyler AllsoppAffordable housing is also a big issue he wants to tackle. Everyone should have access to affordable housing, focus on multifamily dwellings. 
Kelly McCawThe two main issues she is focused on in this election are the housing crisis and improving the effectiveness of the Quinte Human Society. On the Community and Human Services board which has been active in trying to find ways to assist with affordable and subsidized housing.
Paul CarrEnsure we have an Affordable Housing Strategy, New developments should be required to have mixed affordability options
Bill SandisonNeed to support Habitat for Humanity in Belleville - “Building Homes, Building Hope”
Sources:
https://inquinte.ca/story/are-you-still-unsure-who-to-vote-for-in-belleville
https://inquinte.ca/story/mitch-panciuk-how-should-the-city-deal-with-the-housing-crisis
https://inquinte.ca/story/what-matters-to-belleville-candidates-5
https://www.quintenews.com/2018/10/01/188036/
http://www.qnetnews.ca/?p=117527

In general, the proposed solutions fell into the following categories:

  • Accessing provincial and federal funding
  • Reducing development costs/requirements
  • Adding mixed-income requirements for new developments
  • Allowing more second suites and tiny homes
  • Supporting Habitat for Humanity

2019 affordable housing resolutions

At the 2019 Belleville Housing Summit, Council passed a number of resolutions and amendments. Planning Staff consolidated these motions into seven ‘action items':

  1. (Complete) Develop an Affordable Rental Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to provide incentives for affordable rental units.
  2. (In progress) Staff recommendation on ‘next steps' to get to one thousand (1,000) approved rental units and increasing the City's yearly housing production from 200 units to 400 units by 2025, prioritizing affordable and attainable housing:
    1. Review County of Hastings five-year update of the County's Ten-Year Plan to address Housing and Homelessness Issues to identify areas where additional information is required.
    2. Explain the prioritization of the inclusion of apartment rental units in larger development plans to developers.
    3. Housing Report identifying approved and proposed rental units to be updated semi-annually.
    4. Building, Planning, and Engineering departments have all recognized the importance of fast-tracking approvals of affordable housing projects as a community benefit and are prioritizing these developments.
  3. (Complete) Reduce Development Charges by 50% (excluding areas inside the Central Business District which already receive this benefit) for all apartment units with a minimum of a 6 units that enter into an agreement with the City to charge rents at market rate or less for a defined period of time. Up to a maximum of 1,000 units by 2025.
  4. (Complete) Expand the Official Plan Update to include modernizing housing policies, intensification policies and mixed use policies to increase the supply of land available for medium and high residential with mixed use. (est. September 2022)
  5. (Complete) Approved the budget for the development of the Affordable Rental Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP).
  6. (In progress) Propose a policy to provide an annual property allotment from the City to Habitat for Humanity and like Organizations in the City of Belleville of four (4) to six (6) properties for their use/purposes.
  7. (Complete) Update the Second Units Policy to enable property owner to apply to legalize an illegal second unit as per the Second Units process.

Reducing parking spot requirements

The City also developed Guidelines for the Reduction of Parking Requirements for Affordable Rental Housing to offer an incentive for the development of affordable rental housing.

Community Improvement Plan (CIP) incentives and programs

The goal of the CIP is to increase the supply of affordable and market housing by providing financial incentives to encourage the development of new rental units in apartment buildings and second units in the form of refunding development-related charges of up to $11,000 for every new affordable unit built.

Forgoing revenue growth for the municipality, rather than actually allocating additional funds towards the production of affordable housing. In essence, it is the City putting up a “Sale” sign in their apartment and second unit departments to attract customers (developers), which eventually results in revenue growth for the city.

What is the definition of affordable housing in Belleville?

The definition of affordable used for these incentives is rent is at or below the Average Market Rent (AMR) in Belleville as determined by the CMHC's Rental Market Survey.

Incentivizing affordable rental units

The city forgives development charges and additional property taxes for every new affordable rental unit built, forgoing the initial revenues.

Program 1 - Affordable Rental Housing Development Charge Rebate: Affordable rental units in new mid- or high-rise apartment buildings receive 100% rebate of development charges (up to $9,000 per unit).

Program 2 - Affordable Rental Housing Building Permit Fee Rebate: Affordable rental units in new apartment buildings or new second units receive 100% rebate of building permit fees (up to $2,000 per unit).

Program 3 - Affordable Rental Housing T.I.E.R. - 100% Municipal Portion: Affordable rental units in new apartment buildings or new second units receive 100% Tax Increment Equivalent Rebate (T.I.E.R.) rebate of the additional municipal property taxes resulting from the increase in the property’s assessed value, for a period of 10 years.

The TIER program allows the costs of the program funding to be recouped over time using the municipal tax revenue earned from the redevelopment or development of the property.

Incentivizing second units

There are no affordability requirements for these programs. Approximately $100,000 has been allocated to the 2021 CIP budget to fund the second unit programs which add to the city's expenses.

Program 4 - Second Units in New Construction Housing Rebate: Second units included in a newly constructed home - home buyer’s may apply for a $2,500 rebate as long as it is used as a rental unit for 5 years and not as a short-stay accommodation (AirBnB). The unit does not need to meet the affordability definition.

Program 5 - Second Units in Existing Housing Rebate: Second units added to an existing home - homeowners may apply for a rebate of $500, and an additional $2,000 if the addition cost more than $30,000 in contractor labour and materials, as long as it is used as a rental unit for 5 years and not as a short-stay accommodation (AirBnB). The unit can be in a separate building. The unit does not need to meet the affordability definition.

Program 6 - Accessibility Top-Up Rebate: Affordable rental units or second units that are designed and confirmed to be barrier-free and accessible for persons with disabilities may apply for a rebate of up to $2,500.

Incentivizing rental units downtown

There are no affordability requirements for these programs. The City forgoes these initial revenues.

Program 7 - Downtown Residential Above Commercial Building Permit Fee Rebate: New rental units above commercial ground floors are eligible to receive 100% rebate of building permit fees.

Program 8 - Downtown Residential Above Commercial T.I.E.R. - 100% Municipal Portion: New rental units above commercial ground floors are eligible to receive 100% Tax Increment Equivalent Rebate (T.I.E.R.) rebate of the additional municipal property taxes resulting from the increase in the property’s assessed value, for a period of 10 years.

Incentive example

The annual municipal tax bill for an undeveloped, contaminated Brownfield property was approximately $13,974, but after remediation and construction, the estimated taxes are $402,257. The total eligible costs to remediate of the property were $473,521.

Using the current tax increment equivalent grant program to fund the eligible costs and incentivize the applicant to remediate and redevelop the property, the City will gain an annual municipal tax increment of approximately $388,283.

There is an expense to recommit part of the initial tax revenue for the property back to the applicant to cover the eligible costs for the project, the increased taxes achieved here may not have been realized without the incentive.

CIP requirements

In order to receive the rebates, housing providers must follow an application process:

  1. Schedule a pre-application consultation meeting with City staff to review any preliminary plans
  2. Submit completed application form
  3. City Staff review the application and may visit the property
  4. Project work
  5. Submit evidence of paid invoices and other supporting documentation, as required
  6. Chief Building Official may inspect the completed project to ensure compliance

and meet specific conditions to help ensure that these units remain affordable rather than turning over into “unaffordable” market rate housing stock:

  1. Units must meet the program’s Guideline on Affordable Rental Rates
  2. Enter into an agreement with the city and have that agreement registered on the property’s title
  3. Provide a statement annually to the City confirming that each unit remains affordable
  4. Provide unequivocal proof (eg. signed lease agreement) annually that each rental unit meets the definition of affordable

While these requirements are certainly important to ensure the programs are used appropriately and provide intended results, it is incumbent upon Belleville's planning departments to ensure the red tape they add does not slow down the development approvals system. Delays add extra costs to the home development process - over $100,000 in some Ontario municipalities - which are passed onto home buyers in the new home's price.

Belleville housing results

What has been done to address housing affordability in Belleville? To ensure that Belleville has really become “stronger in almost every measurable category”, we gathered the data (which is not easily accessible or transparently reported) to assess the actions city council has taken and the impact they have had on housing over the last 4 years.

Did not access federal funding under the National Housing Strategy (NHS)

In 2018, members of council acknowledged the need to unlock some of the capital from the federal government's $50 billion National Housing Strategy programs that were open to applications from municipalities, housing corporations, non-profit organizations and partnerships between them.

However, the City of Belleville has not applied for funding through any of these programs, under which thousands of units have been built across Canada and tens of thousands are in progress:

  • Affordable Housing Innovation Fund - 15,000 units are financial commitments and over 4,100 units are currently under construction or built
  • National Housing Co-Investment Fund - New Construction Stream - over 11,300 units are in progress, and over 3,400 units are built
  • Rental Construction Financing Initiative - more than 16,600 units are currently under construction and over 5,100 units are built
  • Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) -  creation of close to 6,500 units, of which over 3,300 units are currently under construction and/or built

When asked why, Mayor Panciuk provided the reason: "we did not as we do not administer those programs in our municipality".

However, this is an organizational choice rather than a regulatory requirement or limitation. Other municipalities and housing corporations have successfully applied through the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) projects stream for funding and are building units:

Belleville’s contribution to Hastings County for social housing

The County of Hastings administers the social housing on behalf of the the City of Belleville and 14 member municipalities via a transfer payment for services.

One of the most-often quoted statistics by members of Belleville Council is:

over the past four years Belleville has provided $57 million to Hastings County for social services and $1.3 million from its social infrastructure fund to community groups.

-Mitch Panciuk, April 2022

This sounds like lot, but it doesn’t hold much meaning when stated without any context.

  • Is it too much? Too little? 
  • What impact/improvements has this funding made on the lives of people in Belleville?
  • How efficiently was the money spent and how effective were the projects?

Let's take a closer look at that funding:

In the last 4 years (2018 to 2021), Belleville's funding transfers to Hastings County for social housing specifically (ignoring family services) are less than half - or $19.6 million - of the often quoted $57 million total. This is an average of about $5 million per year according to the City's operating budgets.

Social housing funding continues to be 3.4% of the budget

The city continues to allocate the same 3.4% or so of total municipal revenues - 5% or so of property tax revenues - to social housing year-after-year:

Percent of Total Municipal Revenue and Property Tax Revenue Spent on Social Housing

Of this amount, Hastings County pays Belleville back about $2 million in property taxes on the portion of their social housing units that are located in Belleville (915, or 62% of the 1,473 total), which means Belleville's net transfer is only around $3 million per year - ie. 2.1% of total revenues or 3.3% of property taxes.

If the city wanted to improve community housing outcomes, they could forgive some of these taxes.

Additional funding only enough to cover operating expense increases

Belleville’s total municipal revenues grew an average of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021, while annual funding sent to Hastings County for social housing increased an average of 5.19%, resulting in transfers of about $750,000 more per year in 2021 than in 2018. This outpaced the average annual inflation rate of 3.95% in Ontario over that time.

Funding increased at only a slightly faster rate compared to other core services such as the police and library:

YearPoliceLibrarySocial Housing
2018$20,291,846$2,064,000$4,564,767
2022$22,804,500$2,342,000$5,312,300
Average growth rate3.97%4.30%5.19%

According to the mayor, the funding increases cover operating cost increases due to inflation, collective bargaining agreements and cost of good increases. The additional funding was not provided to expand the programs or improve the service level.

Belleville spends less on social housing per capita than municipal average in Ontario (excl. Toronto)

Belleville's transfers increased on a per capita basis, from $83 in 2016 to $95 in 2021 (growth of 14.5%).

For comparison, in 2020, the City of Toronto spent $933 million, or $315 per person, on social housing. Of this total, the provincial government contributes just $333,250, or $0.11 per person – a share of just 0.04%.

Municipalities in the rest of the province together spent $1.9 billion on social housing, $405 million of which was contributed by the province. This works out to an average of $182 per person spent and $38 of that was contributed by the province, which works out to a 21% share of the costs.

Affordable developments in Belleville

Since 2018, there have been 81 affordable, transitional and supportive units created in purpose-built projects, with another 132 in the planning and building stages. They are being led primarily by non-profits and the Housing Corporation and funded by federal and provincial programs:

StatusNameLocationUnitsAffordable unitsTypeNotesFunding through HCOwner/Proponent
Operating (2018)Sidney Place450 Sidney Street, Belleville5235Affordable Housing80% of market rentIAH - Ontario $1,378,405, Ontario Trillium Foundation SEED Grant ($51,000) and City of Belleville Social Infrastructure Fund grant ($25,000)MAPS Development Corp.
In progressSidney Place450 Sidney Street, Belleville5235 (est)Affordable HousingTwo more buildings to be constructedMAPS Development Corp.
Operating (March 2022)Shiloh House45 South Front Street, Belleville66Transitional HousingGrace Inn
Operating (2020)Home for Good490 Sidney Street, Belleville4040Supportive HousingRGIProvince and Hastings County (35 units), Social Infrastructure Fund (5 units) (Federal Government, the Province and Hastings County)Hastings Local Housing Corporation
In progressGreat Saint James Place111 Great St. James Street, Belleville3217Supportive Housing80% of market rent2018 - IAH (Federal and Provincial)All-Together Housing and Springdale Development Inc.
In progressAldersgateBelleville8814Affordable Housing2021 - OPHI (Federal and Provincial)Aldersgate Homes Inc.
Q3 2023 startHabitat Horizons Centre93 Dundas Street East, Belleville6632 rent to own, 34 affordable homeownershipAffordable Housing$26 million NHS interest free loan or grantsHabitat for Humanity Prince Edward-Hastings
TBD639 Sidney Street, BellevilleTBDSold by City to Habitat for a nominal $2 feeHabitat for Humanity Prince Edward-Hastings
TBD633 Sidney Street, BellevilleTBDCity bought in 2019 for $300,000 for street widening part of the Sidney/Bell Boulevard reconstruction project. Transferring ownership to HabitatHabitat for Humanity Prince Edward-Hastings
TOTAL336248

New developments in Belleville

Very few of the larger developments by private companies make any mention or effort to set-aside affordable units. Out of the 2,998 units built and in development that I reviewed, only 74 will meet a definition of affordable for any amount of time:

NameLocationUnitsAffordable unitsTypeNotesOwner/ProponentSource
Ridgeway Suites105-107 Ridgeway Place102None includedApartmentsStarts at $1,940 for 2BR, well above average of $1,174Source
Arabella Retirement Living24 Dundas Street West125None includedRetirement ResidenceAll-inclusive package starts at $2495 per monthDashmesh Properties and B&K ManagementSource
Moira Riverview Project266 & 268 Moira Street East36None includedApartmentsEstimated rental rates of $1,500 to $2,400 for a 1BR to 3BR - well above the average market rents of $1,076 to $1,531.G. Sekhon Investments Ltd.Source
Burnham Street Apartment Project188, 190 & 196 Dundas Street East and 120/120A & 126 Burnham Street, Belleville3812ApartmentsRent below 30% of the median total income of all families for the areaArtistic Holdings IncSource
Ben Bleecker Property40 Yeomans St.137None included100 apartments, 37 townhousesOwned by the Municipality, and Council has designated the property as surplus land for redevelopment. Sold to the same developers who opened Arabella Retirement LivingSource
Hanley Park North SubdivisionLot 14, Concession 1, Belleville103None included74 single, 29 townhomesHanley Park Developments Inc.Source
Village of AvonleaBtwn Wallbridge Loyalist and Avonlough Rd south of Loyalist College695None included296 single, 91 townhomes, 164 medium density, 144 apartments2566532 Ontario Inc. 2663925 Ontario Inc.Source
Osprey Shores621 Dundas Street East661None included467 condos, 133 townhomes, 41 single"Apartments" are waterfront condos and won't likely be affordable. Former site of the Bakelite Thermosets plant2255718 Ontario Inc.Source
Magnolia Garden Residence135 Station St13332 + 30 10-year lease with Addiction and Mental Health Services – Hastings Prince Edward (AMHS)ApartmentsRents at least 10% below the market level and at least 32 units will be held at affordable rent levels for a minimum of 11 years. 71 units start at $1,621 and $2,085 for 1BR and 2BR, respectively - well above the averages of $1,112 and $1,216KGF Capital Reality c/o 1993388 Ontario Inc.Source
211-217 Pinnacle Street108None includedCondosUnits listed for $323,067 in 2019 with condo fee of $218.30 per monthJim Perkins, 2548667 Ontario Corporation (2017) sold to new owner in 2021 for around $2.168 millionSource
151 Station Street4None includedApartments2422093 Ontario LimitedSource
Belle Harbour (Dockside Quinte)25 Dundas Street West302None includedCondosBELLE HARBOUR L.P.Source
Potters Creek - Phase 9261None included82 single, 14 townhomes, 165 apartmentsDuvanco Homes Inc.Source
Canniff Mills - Phase 11226None included29 single, 47 townhomes, 150 apartmentsStaikos HomesSource
Settlers Ridge - Phase 267None included36 single, 31 townhomes2215100 Ontario Inc. and 2380416 Ontario Inc. Settlers Ridge Developments Inc Duvanco Homes Inc.Source
TOTAL299874

The progress toward Belleville's 2019 CIP goal of creating 1,000 new rental units by 2025 is tracked in the Residential Land Supply report and as of December 31, 2019 there were 449 proposed or constructed rental units including second units representing approximately 45% of Council’s goal.

However, at least half had rents well above affordable levels, putting upward pressure on average market rent:

  • 125 units at Arabella Retirement Living 24 Dundas Street West, which start at $2,495 per month
  • 102 units at 105-107 Ridgeway Place $1,940 for 2BR (local average is $1,174)

It is also unclear as to how many of the units counted are a result of the CIP.

Housing starts and completions in Belleville

Since an abnormally busy 2016, housing starts and completions have been flat since 2017, with no increase in the proportion of builds being multi-residential apartments:

Housing starts in Belleville Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) by type

Housing completions in Belleville CMA by type

People experiencing homelessness

There were more people experiencing homelessness in Belleville in 2021 compared to 2018, and for longer periods of time according to the Point-in-Time Count survey by Bridge Street United Church. The survey found at least 180 people were homeless compared to 150 in 2018. Among them were five families with a total of 10 children.

The findings were similar to those in the homeless enumeration, where insufficient income and lack of affordable housing were identified as the most common reasons for homelessness and barriers to finding housing, followed by various individual reasons and challenges.

Hastings County results

Service managers are responsible for administering and funding social housing and maintaining service level standards. The Housing Services Act, 2011 requires service managers to develop comprehensive, multi-year plans (10 years or more) to:

  • assess current and future local housing needs
  • plan for local housing and homelessness services to address needs
  • measure and report on progress achieved towards meeting the objectives and targets set out in their plans

Housing and homelessness plans need to be consistent with the Policy Statement: Service Manager Housing and Homelessness Plans, which anticipates the following results:

  • measurable reduction in the number of households experiencing homelessness
  • increase in the number of households achieving housing stability
  • improve co-ordination of housing and homelessness services with other community and human services
  • informed by engagement with Indigenous organizations and communities

Waitlist and households housed

Hastings County’s waitlist continues to grow year over year as there are more new applicants than they are able to house annually:

YearBelleville waitlistBelleville households housedPercent of households housedWaitlist increasePercent waitlist increase
2017114066
20181226735.95%867.54%
201915581056.74%33227.08%
202016811247.38%1237.89%
20212075663.18%39416.40%

Even if there were no new applicants every year, based on the average portion of the waitlist housed every year for the past 4 years (5.81%), it would take 17.21 years to house everyone on the waitlist. But in reality the situation gets worse every year as there are more new applicants than they can find placements for.

If we were to freeze this list to 2,614, it would take — based on how many [units] we have built in the last four years - 20 years just to address the list that we’ve got if we continue to do what we continue to do forever so, it’s just not good enough.

Former Belleville councillor Bill Sandison

Where do these precariously housed households, some of whom are in imminent risk of becoming homeless, live and how do they afford shelter while they wait? 

They often have to make tough choices and sacrifices to keep a roof over their heads.

Common options include hotels, with friends or family, couch surfing, or staying in an institution like a hospital or treatment facility. Homes or apartments that are in a state of disrepair, or overcrowded.

In the years between when someone applies for subsidized housing and when a unit becomes available, that person’s situation may have changed dramatically.

Low turnover

Part of the reason they are not able to house as many applicants is due to lower unit turnover, which can be attributed to a number of factors, including:

  • Households continue to require subsidized housing and cannot afford to move. Units are well-maintained, and comparable housing is not available that is affordable. 
  • Lack of affordable housing options in the area in general for rental and home ownership. 
  • In the City of Belleville, where demand for housing is the highest, CMHC reports a vacancy rate of only 1.5%. Landlords are opting out of participating in the rent supplement programs for various reasons, limiting the opportunity for turnover.

Accessing federal funding under the National Housing Strategy (NHS)

Hastings County has not applied for funding through any of the programs.

The 2014 10-Year Plan included a recommendation to be 'shovel ready':

This was updated in 2019 to: Advocate to the upper levels of government for sufficient and permanent funding to increase the affordable housing supply for all target groups in Hastings County and the Cities of Belleville and Quinte West.

When the NHS funding was announced, Hastings County initially intended to apply for funding through the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) for the creation of an 18 unit apartment complex. The plan was to get the North Hastings Non-Profit Housing Corporation (NHNPHC), a non-profit housing provider, to transfer their assets and merge with Hastings Local Housing Corporation.

Hastings County would then apply for RHI funding by the December 31, 2020 deadline to be able to construct additional housing units in the north without purchasing land. NHNPHC was not interested in the arrangement and so the application to RHI was cancelled.

In response to my email, Hastings County stated that purchasing and re-zoning vacant land would have been difficult in the time frame:

Having to purchase serviced vacant land that may require re-zoning for multi residential building would made achieving the 12-month completion deadline for the funding very difficult to achieve. The County is seeking partners to try to capitalize on the funding available but remains supportive of not-for-profit housing providers and the important and vital housing assets they bring to our area.

They knew they had to be ready and able to access federal funding on short timelines, but missed the opportunities when the programs came about.

Affordable housing units

Number of affordable housing units, supplements and allowances administered by Hastings County

The number of units, supplements and allowances has been roughly the same for the past 10 years, other than the 40 unit Home for Good project in Belleville in 2021 which was funded by the provincial government to provide housing assistance to people experiencing chronic homelessness, and a slight increase in allowances in the last couple of years:

The lines in the above chart look choppy because the number of units administered by Hastings County in a given year were not clearly or consistently provided in the years before the 2021 annual report.

Over the past 14 years (2008 to 2022), Hastings County has supported (ie. not necessarily funded) the creation of 353 units throughout Hastings County, 249 of those are considered affordable as they are at or below 80% of AMR. This could even include letters of support to other housing providers from Hastings County.

Affordable housing projects in development supported by Hastings County

There are eight (8) developments in progress in Hastings County including 125 confirmed units funded by the federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) and Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI) programs:

Here are more details about these developments and others in nearby communities:

The average cost per unit with most recent developments between 2019-2022 is $167,000 per unit. Through provincial and federal funding, Hastings County has funded 71% of the total units (353) since 2008. Provincial and federal funding represents 46% of the total costs of construction.

Recommendations

For the City of Belleville

In order to ensure housing is affordable for moderate to lower income households, land use planning tools must be combined with the provision of non-market, community-based housing.

  1. The administration of social housing may be out of the hands of Belleville council, but they still have a lever to adjust - the amount they send to Hastings County. Provide more funding for social housing per capita to Hastings County to create more units and supplements. Municipalities in Ontario (excl. Toronto) spend an average $144 per person, compared to Belleville's $95
  2. Take ownership and responsibility over the funds provided to Hastings County as if the County were a private vendor. It is the responsibility of Belleville’s Members of Council to ensure that the city’s expenditures are spent effectively and efficiently, but also in a way that provides a pre-determined level of quality - same as they do when they hire companies to repave roads, build tennis courts or provide electronic voting software
  3. Start ensuring new developments include affordable and mixed housing options in line with the Provincial Policy Statement:
    1.4.3 Planning authorities shall provide for an appropriate range and mix of housing options and densities to meet projected market based and affordable housing needs of current and future residents of the regional market area by establishing and implementing minimum targets for the provision of housing which is affordable to low and moderate income households and which aligns with applicable housing and homelessness plans
  4. Measure KPIs such as:
    1. Portion of new units created that are purpose-built rentals (eg. apartment buildings)
    2. Number of purpose-built rental units created
    3. Number of secondary rental units created
    4. Number of (affordable) units created through the CIP
    5. Number of (affordable) secondary units created
    6. Number of surplus municipal lands considered and provided to Habitat for Humanity and other non-profit
    7. Vacancy rates
    8. Core housing need
    9. Average Market Rent vs Income
  5. Publish these results regularly in a public report such as on online dashboard like Hamilton's Housing and Homelessness Dashboard and the Region of Waterloo's affordable homes dashboard to increase public engagement and make data-based decision-making easier. Ideally, results would be benchmarked against comparable municipalities such as Barrie, Peterborough, Sudbury, Cambridge as well as the Ontario average to compare performance and uncover best practices.
  6. Create an Open Data portal to promote increase public engagement, build trust with constituents, free up staff time, and support data-based decision making like more than 62 other municipalities in Ontario including Kingston, Peterborough and Oshawa.

For Hastings County

Take the lead in proposing projects

Member municipalities look to the County as being solely responsible for not only community housing, but affordable housing as a whole:

The City of Belleville does not build any housing nor do we operate any facilities that provide housing -- these programs are all operated and administered by Hastings County.

- Mayor Panciuk, City of Belleville

The County should take more responsibility for their service levels by taking the lead on developing and proposing projects and then getting the municipalities to commit to the project and increase their funding transfers.

Be shovel-ready to apply for funding

This was a recommendation in the 2014 10-year plan that was subsequently removed. If other communities were ready to take advantage of the recent federal and provincial funding, we must be ready and able to as well to stay competitive and get our share of the funding.

Streamline annual reports

After spending a lot of time going through these reports, I think the layout could be improved to relay information more efficiently and effectively to increase public engagement and make data-based decision-making easier.

Here are my suggestions:

Provide links to all annual reports on the website

Provide links to more than just the latest annual report without requiring an email back-and-forth, seeing as they are publicly available on the CivicWeb portal and accessing multiple years' reports is necessary to get longer than a 1 year snapshot of the services.

For reference, here are their annual reports since 2017:

Ideally, some of this information could be provided in an easily accessible online reporting dashboard like Hamilton's Housing and Homelessness Dashboard and the Region of Waterloo's affordable homes dashboard to show current needs and progress made - increasing transparency, accountability and public engagement.

Focus reporting on the year's progress

Remove repetitive sections or move them to an appendix. The "Opening the Right Door" review took place in 2019, but was included word-for-word in the 2020 and 2021 annual reports, with only the image being changed:

Separate latest updates from program definitions and funding sources

Lead with the latest updates or move definitions to a glossary and program descriptions to an appendix. The Home for Good, Community Capacity and Innovation (CCI) Funding and other sections repeat a lot of the same details word-for-word from previous years and the new information is often buried.

Format data into tables and charts where ever possible instead of embedding the numbers in paragraphs:

Report multiple years of data to show trends

Most of the sections show data for the current reporting year only, and make limited reference to how the compare to the previous year with a year-over-year percent change.

Including graphs and charts that show multiple years of data would help illustrate what the longer-term trends are and avoid making the numbers look better (or worse) than they actually are:

Kingston's annual report

Report efficiency and effectiveness measures (KPIs) rather than raw numbers

Measure KPIs such as:

  • Average wait time to housing placement (service level)
  • Number of social housing units per 1,000 households (service level)
  • Social housing administration operating cost per social housing unit (efficiency)
  • Social housing subsidy costs per social housing unit (efficiency)

Ideally, results would be benchmarked against comparable municipalities such as Barrie, Peterborough, Sudbury, Cambridge as well as the Ontario average to compare performance and uncover best practices.

Here are some reports by other municipal service managers:

Belleville housing market statistics

Rental vacancy rate in Belleville

According to the 2021 CMHC Rental Market Report, an increase in demand generated the lowest vacancy rate since 1992. Rental affordability declined considerably for households at the lower end of the income spectrum.

In 2020, demand for rental accommodations increased by a remarkably high 2.6%. In 2021, demand strengthened further.

Source: CMHC

The average asking rent for vacant apartments was 22.6% higher than the average rent for occupied apartments (Table 1.1.9). This disparity in rents suggests that market rents continue to see strong upward pressure due to lower vacancies. As a result, longer-term tenants with lower than market rents may be less inclined to move because they only face rent increases in line with the provincially allowable amount.

Several factors contributed to the stronger rental demand, including increased employment for youth aged 15 to 24, more substantial migration and high homeownership costs.  

House and rental prices in Belleville

Average house prices in Belleville

Housing prices have basically doubled between 2017 and 2021 - growing at an average rate of 20.9% annually over those 4 years.

Average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Belleville

The $210 to $354 flat-rate rent supplements and housing allowances that Hastings County provides to recipients while they wait for a social housing placement make less and less of a dent as rents rise.

Median total income of economic families income in Belleville

2021 census TBA July 13, 2022

House prices to median income ratio in Belleville

2021 census TBA July 13, 2022

The chart shows the ratio of average home prices to average incomes in the City of Belleville, ON.

  • Median total income before tax of economic families from Statistics Canada
  • Average home prices from Quinte MLS
  • Average home prices do not take into account variations in the types of homes being sold.

Mortgage lenders use the following ratios as guidelines:

  • Gross Debt Service (GDS) Ratio - Housing costs including include mortgage principal and interest, taxes, heating expenses and half of your condo fees, shouldn’t be more than 32% of your gross annual income and must not exceed 39%.
  • Total Debt Service (TDS) Ratio Your total debt servicing ratio is your mortgage payment + property taxes + debt payments (car and credit card) + $100 (standard heating cost)) divided by household income and shouldn’t be more than 40% of your gross annual income (typically household combined) and must not exceed 44%.

This generally results in maximum purchase price of 3 to 5 times your gross income, the higher end of which is only attainable if you don't have other debts.

With those numbers it means I couldn't afford to buy my own house at current prices 🙁

Rent prices to median income ratio in Belleville

2021 census TBA July 13, 2022 - 30% is $X per month

Take action

Make your voice heard in a few clicks

Here is an example script to send to the members of city council, please edit it to reflect your own thoughts and opinions:

"Mayor and Councillors,

As a resident of Belleville I am concerned about the affordability of housing and the City's approach to making affordable housing available to residents in need.

Developing the Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP) was a great first step and I look forward to seeing the results of these programs, however, it seems as though this passive, incentive-based approach will not be enough to tackle the affordability issue in a timely way.

Much more could be done here to place a higher priority on this issue. Please see this post for recommendations: https://cansumer.ca/affordable-housing-belleville/#recommendations

The current and future precariously housed and homeless are constituents and voters for whom council are responsible for maintaining service level standards and ensuring there is enough housing available.

What performance metrics will be monitored to ensure the CIP is producing the intended results and what changes will be made if the plan isn’t as effective as anticipated?

Thank you for hearing my concerns, I look forward to your response.

Regards,
Your Name"

Sources

About the author

Alex Wideman
Alex Wideman is a consumer rights advocate, serial entrepreneur and the editor-in-chief of Cansumer. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Queen's University. He is passionate about helping others save time and money and has been creating consumer-focused online resources for over 10 years. More about Cansumer Read more

Was this article helpful?

Leave a comment