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'Step in the right direction': Newmarket man says project would help solve affordable housing 'crisis'

Neighbours concerned about impacts on traffic, hospital, schools, sewers
Oct. 12, 2021
Lisa Queen

While he sympathizes with neighbours’ legitimate concerns, Newmarket resident Rex Taylor hopes the town embraces plans for affordable housing on Bayview Parkway.

Quality of housing improves the quality of our community, regardless of the income levels of people living there, he said on a virtual public information meeting.

The project would see Housing York build affordable housing at 62 Bayview Pkwy., the site of a former Region of York administrative building and one-time regional headquarters.

In June, regional council approved the site for affordable housing but the proposal must still go through the town’s planning process, which will involve community consultation.

While plans are still in the works, the project would see 70 per cent of the units as subsidized rent-geared-to-income and 30 per cent market value, with rents still more affordable than many apartments in the community.

Taylor is hoping the project, which would require funding from the provincial and federal governments, is approved.

“The provision of housing, somewhere for people to live, quality housing, is the mark of a civilized, progressive society that makes us a better community and this is a significant step in that direction,” he said at the virtual meeting.

Days later, standing before the regional building now being demolished, Taylor said he understands neighbours have genuine concerns.

Those include the scale of the project, impacts on traffic, Southlake Regional Health Centre and schools, the impact on the already strained sewer system in the neighbourhood, the effects on the surrounding natural environment, the potential for crime committed by tenants and fears about lack of public consultation.

Saying those worries can be addressed, Taylor said the project is needed in a region where house prices and rents are out of the reach of many.

The retired Pickering College teacher also argued providing affordable housing is fiscally sound as it saves taxpayers money down the road on health, social and criminal justice costs, leads to better educational outcomes for tenants’ children and frees up tenants’ money to be spent supporting the economy.

“I think it’s pretty very important that people realize that this (project) isn’t solving the problem. This is a small step,” he said.

“It’s not addressing the entire difficulty of unaffordable homes in York Region or Newmarket, nobody is kidding ourselves about that, but it’s a step in the right direction. If you don’t make those baby steps or small steps, then society just gets worse, for heaven’s sakes. We have to do the right things.”

Taylor was pleased to see political parties support affordable housing during the federal election campaign but is hoping the Liberals will now turn words into action.

“You know, there is many a slip between the lip and the cup before things actually wind up getting done,” he said.

“This (Newmarket project) is a concrete example of trying to make an effort in that particular direction.”

York Region is in an affordable housing “crisis,” according to Josh Scholten, the region’s director of housing development and asset strategy.

“YR has an extremely limited rental supply and very low vacancy rates. In fact, we have the lowest proportion of rental housing in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area at just 14 per cent,” he said.

“There’s definitely a real need for affordable housing.”

Housing York’s waiting list for subsidized housing has doubled over the last decade to 15,000, meaning people must wait up to 10 years for a unit, he said.

Mayor John Taylor, chair of Housing York, said the waiting list can seem daunting.

“That would make many people throw up their hands and give up but we can’t do that. And there’s reason to be hopeful and progress is being made,” he said.

“I believe passionately that a great community thinks of housing all the time for everyone.”

Housing York projects are high quality developments that house members of the community, John Taylor said.

He also praised the Newmarket location as close to transit and amenities.