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Affordable housing remains a priority in Greater Sudbury: Mayor Brian Bigger

Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger joined other Ontario big city mayors by attending a virtual Housing Affordability Summit on Wednesday
Sudbury apartment buildings
(NorthernOntarioBusiness.com)

Although the city has made progress in its efforts to attract more affordable housing, Mayor Brian Bigger said it’s an ongoing effort they’ll be chipping away at for years to come.

The issue was the topic of the day Wednesday, with Ontario’s big city mayors attending a virtual Housing Affordability Summit to address what Premier Doug Ford referred to as a “housing crisis.”

Coming out of the day’s meeting, Bigger issued a media release and spoke with Sudbury.com about where the city currently stands as it relates to affordable housing.

The theme during the meeting and recent discussions around virtual council chambers, he said, is that “it’s not just about creating more homes, it’s about creating more affordable homes.”

“I do believe that we’re in a very good position because we’re one of the most affordable cities above 100,000 population in the province,” he added. “We have the land, (and) we have many years’ worth of pre-approved subdivisions that are open for development.”

Among the most recent steps that city council has made is the adoption of zoning bylaw changes to Lasalle Boulevard that will, among other things, accommodate for more high-density housing along this major corridor.  

They also loosened multi-unit parking requirements from 1.5 parking spaces per unit to one and for more land to qualify for parking, which will potentially allow for the creation of more units.

During 2022 budget deliberations, Greater Sudbury city council unanimously approved funding for a transitional housing complex to help ease the chronically homeless into permanent community housing. 

Although it’s been years in the works, Bigger said he remains hopeful that Project Manitou will soon be able to move forward.

“They’ve been trying to move forward since 2010, and I hope they’ll get to the point where we’ll see construction in the very near future,” he said of what has been advertised as two buildings totaling 826 affordable units in the city’s downtown area. 

Recent years have also seen city council introduce:

  • The Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan, which added various incentives to encourage development.
  • A 50-per-cent reduction in development charges for multi-unit residential developments in specific key corridor areas in the city.
  • A zoning change to allow for up to three units on a property that contains a single detached, semi-detached or rowhouse dwelling.

Last year saw the city issue residential building permits totaling $84.3 million, which resulted in the creation of 382 units. These include 14 one-bedroom units as part of the Sparks Street Seniors Housing project and the conversion of 30 two-bedroom units into one-bedroom units to address homelessness alongside agency supports.

There were 436 residential units created in 2020 and 245 created in 2019. 

Wednesday’s discussion was encouraging, Bigger said, adding that the city is already moving on a number of efforts other municipalities are currently working to adopt. 

One thing that sticks out is other municipalities’ work to pre-approve higher density housing builds – an expedited approvals process Bigger said the city is on the track to achieving.

More efforts similar to the zoning changes on Lasalle Boulevard to allow for high-density housing projects like walk-up apartments will continue to be a priority, he said.

“I think we’ve put a lot of these programs in place and we’ll continue to promote them and support developers, and anyone who’s coming here to invest or to participate in our real estate market,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good base.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.