There is no easy answer for something that causes so much hardship for so many.
Municipal candidates are put on the spot when they are asked what they are going to do to fix the problem of affordable housing, homelessness, and other social issues. Most don’t know, and they respond that they will collaborate, encourage, advocate, or support to fix the problem. These are all just buzz words that do nothing to solve the problem. No tangible plans are provided.
All municipal councils are struggling with this issue because they do not have the responsibility, the tools, or funding to address this issue successfully. Our Council believed that providing subsidies by way of grants, loans and waiving fees was the answer (See Cobourg Internet’s recent blog posting). It may help a dozen people or families, but what about so many others?
Most of it comes down to responsibility and accountability.
Social programs are the responsibility of the Provincial and the Federal governments. They are responsible for setting policies and funding programs for affordable housing. The County also has the responsibility as the provincial government allocates funding to them for these purposes.
We encourage municipal candidates who are mostly focused on social issues like housing affordability to run as candidates in the Provincial and Federal elections. Trying to address social issues will only frustrate them at the inability to make any profound changes at the municipal level.
All of us, especially Council, needs to hold those levels of government (Provincial, Federal, County) accountable for addressing affordable housing. This means demanding and holding Cobourg’s mayor accountable, as he sits as our elected representative on County Council. In addition, as Chairperson of the Northumberland Social Services Committee, Mayor Henderson has been ideally positioned to get the County to do their part over the last four years. We have heard little on this issue from our current mayor during his four-year term.
But what can be done at the municipal level to address housing affordability?
We have been impressed by Michael Sprayson, a new candidate running for Council. In his newsletter and on his web site, he has outlined specific action plans on how the Town can improve the housing affordability for many more people than the subsidies the last Council implemented at a cost to Cobourg’s taxpayers of almost $1M. These are things that can be quickly enacted to benefit many more people. To view his action plans, you can read them here: What can Cobourg do to fix the problem of affordability and homelessness in town?
Although we do not endorse candidates, we encourage you to check out his web site and newsletters and decide for yourselves. (Michael Sprayson web site)
Housing affordability is not easy to fix. We can do a much better job by holding the Provincial, Federal, and County governments accountable. At the municipal level, we can use the concrete action plans outlined by Michael Sprayson to direct the debate and make the necessary changes.
All of us need to hold the responsible levels of government accountable for addressing housing affordability.