All levels of government acknowledge the importance of access to housing. Yet right now, many regions across the country are facing housing challenges, due in part to factors like rising inflation rates, changing demographics and ongoing supply chain issues.
Greater Sudbury is not immune to these pressures. But there are deliberate steps we can take to minimize and overcome some of these difficulties. I believe that now is the time to proactively address the spectrum of our community’s housing needs, from emergency shelter spaces to multi-unit buildings and single-detached bungalows.
As a mayoral candidate last fall, I heard from residents who had concerns about the local housing market. Young people wanting to grow their careers and families here in Greater Sudbury told me they feel the squeeze of rising interest rates and worry that homeownership is out of their reach. Retirees and others on fixed incomes report challenges finding suitable accommodations. Regardless of age, income or ability, affordable and accessible rentals are urgently needed to meet the needs of our citizens.
So now, as mayor, I am taking action.
I introduced a motion to council to direct staff to prepare a Housing Supply Strategy by the end of this year. I am calling for a clear summary of the City of Greater Sudbury’s current housing-related initiatives, a review of urban planning best practices that may be adopted locally, and recommendations on how Greater Sudbury can help the province accomplish its goal of 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.
A Housing Supply Strategy that encourages thoughtful, targeted and sustainable residential development is one piece of a broader strategy to grow our population and local economy. To ensure that our city is a welcoming place for all, we need a robust supply of housing to accommodate the evolving needs and life stages of families, groups and individuals. The Housing Supply Strategy will include policy options to promote a true mix of housing types across Greater Sudbury’s communities – including methods to increase and protect the number of affordable rental units.
The Housing Supply Strategy will also guide a proactive approach to transitional housing options for individuals experiencing homelessness or precarious housing. In addition to providing living accommodations, transitional housing programs often include counselling for mental health and addictions, and other community services support.
I am hopeful that the City of Greater Sudbury will have 100 new transitional housing units by the end of 2024.
While the city does provide transitional and community housing services, we are not in the business of building houses. Rather, through issuing permits and providing planning, zoning and engineering functions, the city impacts the pace and direction of private sector development. Right now, around 6,300 residential units have been approved by the city through draft approved subdivisions and site plans — but not yet built.
It is my aim to provide favourable conditions to encourage sustainable growth and development here in Greater Sudbury.
Growth, it should be noted, is not the same as sprawl. Greater Sudbury already has many thousands of kilometres of roads, pipes and sewers to maintain. In addition to new subdivisions of single-detached homes, we should be encouraging development in areas with existing infrastructure capacity to minimize tax dollars spent on extensions.
There are environmental benefits to this approach, too. For example, encouraging multi-unit residential builds along existing bus routes promotes public transit use and may reduce demand for large parking lots.
Greater Sudbury is already a hub for education, health care, government, the mining industry and many small businesses. We have a great quality of life here, with ample green space, recreation opportunities, and an active arts and culture scene.
As more people discover the benefits of living, working and playing in Greater Sudbury, we must be ready to welcome them. A Housing Supply Strategy is one step on our journey to sustainable growth and development.
Paul Lefebvre is the Mayor of Greater Sudbury.