An initiative to create more long-term rental housing in Northern Bruce Peninsula is not only expected to bring more units to the market, but also to create awareness of the importance stable rental housing plays in a healthy community.
The Long-Term Landlord Housing Initiative, launched earlier this year, has approved funding for four rental properties on the peninsula in an effort to create an incentive for more property owners to become long-term landlords in the community.
“The response we got, not just in applications, but in that sort of community input with people reaching out about it whether they applied or not, definitely exceeded our expectations,” project manager Karla Trudgen said Monday. “I think what has been most encouraging to me in my role here in the last couple of years is that housing has become a central focus.”
The project is part of the Landlord and Tenants Support pilot project funded by Bruce County and implemented by The Meeting Place Tobermory, a charitable organization providing social supports and services in the community. In March, the county committed $110,000 for the initiative, which emerged from the Seasonal Workers and Entrepreneurs Sparks Ideas (SPARK) working groups that met in the winter of 2019-20.
on Dec. 12, The Meeting Place Tobermory’s chair Noreen Steinacher and Trudgen, who is also the community co-ordinator of the organization, provided an update to Northern Bruce Peninsula.
They reported that funding was approved for four rental properties, which have the potential to house up to four families or 11 individuals. It is likely the units will accommodate a combination of both, according to their reports.
Trudgen said the need for long-term housing on the peninsula is “considerable,” with part of her focus for the project being on creating stable housing.
“There is a lot of staff housing up here that is seasonal and there are people who rent short-term who will rent their properties in the offseason when they aren’t renting short-term,” Trudgen said. “This means that a lot of people, especially younger people who maybe can’t afford to get in the housing market or have been unable to, some of them are left moving multiple times in the year.”
Trudgen said there are many in the community who may never be without shelter, but they are almost always looking.
“For some it is really hard to find a home that you actually have the permanent right to,” Trudgen said.
“Just four rental options can have a huge impact, and if people see that, it can be a motivating factor around other people pursuing being a long-term landlord.”
In total, 20 applications for the funding program were received by the mid-September deadline, with locations throughout the municipality. Larger population centers with services and employment opportunities tend to have the most applications with 40 per cent coming from Tobermory, 20 per cent from Lion’s Head, and 15 per cent from Ferndale. Applications also came from Dyer’s Bay, Miller Lake, Barrow Bay, Pike Bay and Stokes Bay.
“I think it just helped to kind of bring long-term landlords out of the woodwork, so to speak,” Trudgen said. “It is not always easy to identify those individuals, especially in a community where if you are renting, a lot of times you have found your rental through people. Some of it is advertised, but not all of it.”
Through the program, the better interested parties were at providing their commitment to increasing housing stock, the more the applications were considered, the report said.
Trudgen said the work had made him realize that many others in the community had been looking for opportunities to address housing issues.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to help and I think this initiative gave people an opportunity to feel like they are part of the solution,” said Trudgen. “This is the sort of the best outcome we could hope for, because in developing this initiative it is very much informed by a lot of community work that has been put in over the last few years around housing.”
Trudgen said two of the projects selected for funding are closer to the Tobermory area, while two others are closer to Lion’s Head.
“The four projects are spread throughout Northern Bruce Peninsula . . . and that just happened,” she said. “I thought having options spread out was the ideal, and we just happened to get quality applications from throughout the municipality.”
The program has also been successful in creating awareness for those who may have a secondary property but had not considered long-term rental as an option.
“Long-term landlords that I talk to who really succeed in it know there are other ways you can rent your property, but this is one of the more stable or reliable ways to do it,” said Trudgen. “There is the other side of it as well who see it not just as an investment for themselves, but our community benefits from having housing options for people.
“By providing housing they are not just providing housing to that family or individual, but also contributing to the sustainability of our community.”
The initiative will follow the projects to completion in 2023 and assist landlords with additional supports they may need in getting their units to market. A stipulation of the program was that landlords committed the property for long-term rental for a minimum of five years.
“I am hoping people will end up being housed, which is the end goal, and especially families,” Trudgen said, adding that in the last census those between the ages of 20 and 44 in Northern Bruce Peninsula made up just 16 per cent of the totalpopulation.
“I think to have a sustainable community, to have a year-round economy and to preserve the things about Northern Bruce Peninsula that make it what it is you need to support people with housing.”
There will be a formal report to Bruce County, with plans to also develop further discussions on “less conventional rental options” such as secondary dwelling units, shared living and tiny homes, develop a landlord-tenant win-win guide for the municipality, and further design a financial incentive funding process for long-term rentals.
While the project selected applicants who would add to the long-term rental market, the process did accept applications from people with long-term tenants already. Trudgen said it would be great for the project to diversify to assist existing landlords with long-term rentals.
Trudgen said there are other programs, such as Ontario Renovates, that provide funding for renovations for homeowners, but the pilot is unique in that it applies to a secondary residence that could be used as a rental.
And many programs are designed for larger capital projects in more densely populated communities.
“Something that came up in a lot of the community-based focus groups and things like that was that there are maybe properties out there that just aren’t on the long-term rental market,” said Trudgen. “We wanted to provide an incentive for people to choose the long-term rental option with their properties.”
While the project was a one-year pilot, Trudgen said there was potential for another similar program in the future.
“Because we got so many applications we can make a strong case for getting more funding, which is great,” said Trudgen. “We are hoping that will happen and that is what we are going to pursue in the new year.”
She said Bruce County has been very supportive of the program and should decide to run a similar program in other areas where long-term rentals are needed, she would encourage it.
“As much as this initiative is really designed for the specific needs of this community, I think there are other communities that have very similar needs that this initiative could be generalized to,” Trudgen said. “There are lots of other communities that are affected by some of the same challenges that we are.”
Trudgen said the whole program has been satisfying in that it has connected her with people who have the resources and motivation to find solutions to problems in the community.
“You may see it as a good business model, but it is also motivated by just a genuine care for the community,” she said. “Sometimes people just need a bit of a community or some support to encourage them to do it.
“We will be keeping that long-term connection and I think it will be really exciting to see the progress of these projects.”