WBRA sends an open letter to the mayor of Wasaga Beach calling for a policy review on the issue of affordable housing.
Open Letter to:
Town of Wasaga Beach via email May 22, 2020
RE: Affordable Housing Issues - Wasaga Beach
The Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association Inc. (WBRA) would like to bring forth an ongoing issue that the Town has yet to address in a satisfactory way.
The issue of motel conversions has been sitting on unfinished business for about 15 years. The Town is now engaging in updating the Official Plan. A survey was recently done to gather residents' opinions. However, the question posed does not really address adequately the need for a proper affordable housing initiative that needs to come from the Town of Wasaga Beach in collaboration with the County of Simcoe.
For years the Town has been housing people for the County in substandard units for permanent housing. The motels, cabins, and apartments are designated for short term use. They are violating the by-law regarding the 31 day rule, and they are not following proper zoning, nor are they paying for a permanent multi-use residence tax base.
This continued use and Council acceptance of this type of accommodation as affordable housing is simply not acceptable, and should not be acceptable to the residents of Wasaga Beach, to the Town of Wasaga Beach or the County of Simcoe. Short term it acts as a “get out of jail free card”, no accountability to anyone, just close the doors and turn a blind eye.
Long term this is creating a much more precarious, and perhaps, dangerous situation that is now slowly evolving. We are:
a) Taking on far too many non-tax paying, transient people. The apartment/motel units are receiving Simcoe County funding which helps them short term with subsidizing the rooms, but adding no value to the community.
b) Creating a “ghetto” in our tourist area, which becomes problematic for our image and primary industry.
c) Encouraging drug crime, which is on the increase as we read of it regularly, and as an accommodation to this growing issue we have now 2 drug related medical facilities in town.
An extremely concerning trend. How can the Town attempt to rebrand and advertise as a family destination, when drug and weapons charges are frequently in the news?
If not already completed, we would strongly suggest the County of Simcoe and the Town of Wasaga Beach conduct an up to date Census to determine exactly how many of these units Wasaga Beach is currently accommodating, and clarify the acceptable percentage to which a Town should be responsible for.
Currently, rough estimations put our numbers north of 500 units of affordable housing through the Tourist Accommodation Conversions (TAC) with the additional 99 units currently being inhabited on Zoo Park Road. This could equate to upwards of 2000 residents, and with a population of around 20,000 this is approximately 10% of our population. This “cheap” housing not only puts undue pressure on our economy, it also removes those properties designated for tourism, providing further negative impacts on our economy.
According to the County's Affordable Housing and Homeless Prevention Strategy completed June 2013 , it determined the need for 110 affordable dwellings for Wasaga Beach over the next 10 years. We are well over that number.
The WBRA is not without sympathy for the plight of many in need of the assisted housing, however, these particular conversions are well past their shelf life. Many of these buildings are well over a half century old, and as such would not pass any of today’s standards. Many are in need of serious repairs. There is also little to no opportunity for employment in the town. What is offered is limited minimal wage service industry jobs or seasonal. This provides no opportunity for individual success. The motel conversions are also not registered as permanent residency, therefore these tenants do not enjoy the rights of proper rental accommodations, and are not required to be guided by the tenancy act.
In a less obvious way, is the continued low rating of our public schools a direct result of this overpopulation? Does this reflect in the School Board’s reluctance in Wasaga Beach getting a high school? Have the secondary signs of having an overwhelming population in need been studied with respect to Wasaga Beach? Has a study been commissioned on the long term effects of these conversions on Wasaga Beach?
On a broader note we already see the impact of this overburdening on the Town of Wasaga Beach. Our real estate values are lower and do not increase at the rate of our neighbouring communities. It could also be a significant contributor for the Town’s struggle to generate commercial redevelopment along our prime beachfront areas, which have not improved in decades.
How can we move forward?
This issue trend needs to be addressed in a more permanent and workable solution. Proper housing, in a proper location is required. We are a supposed tourist destination, it is our primary industry and our remaining business establishments need that income. If Wasaga Beach gleans transfer payments from the County of Simcoe then that needs to be re-evaluated. It is well past the time for us to continue down this path. Other towns in Simcoe County need to accommodate their fair share, and within Wasaga Beach other properties need to be built/rehabilitated to accommodate the less fortunate. No where is it written that social or affordable housing should be beachfront property.
The Town should not take the “easy” path and simply rezone these substandard living conditions. There is no future in continuing converting our already poor tourism accommodations into social housing.
This situation needs to be addressed quickly. As the Province, County and Town will be dealing with the economic fallout from the Covid 19 Pandemic, we will be faced with more people needing social assistance and housing, and Wasaga Beach cannot, and should not, be the easy fix for a complex issue. We need to deal with the problem at hand without compounding it any more. Frequently, our motel accommodations are converting and adding to the already overwhelming indigent population we have.
We hope the Town of Wasaga Beach will make the right decision and lead the way with Simcoe County to review policy with an understanding that this long-standing situation is encouraging the downfall of Wasaga Beach, economically and visually, and impacts every tax paying resident.
Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association Inc.
C. George Cornell, Simcoe County Warden
Mark Aitken, CAO Simcoe County
Sylvia Bray Deputy Mayor, Town of Wasaga Beach
Mark Kinney, Councillor Town of Wasaga Beach
David Foster, Councillor, Town of Wasaga Beach
Joe Belanger, Councillor Town of Wasaga Beach
Stan Wells, Councillor, Town of Wasaga Beach
George Watson, Councillor Town of Wasaga Beach
George Vadeboncoeur, CAO, Town of Wasaga Beach