Rural Ontario Credit: Perfectus Photography & Design Co / Unsplash

Affordability, the cost or price of ‘something.’ It’s a word that is thrown around a lot these days, especially by politicians, without a real understanding of what it actually means given the current housing crisis fuelled by inflated prices. In the current unaffordable market, so much more is at play and at stake.

Halton Regional Council will vote on February 9 whether to expand onto over 5,000 acres of prime farmland to build ‘affordable’ housing when in reality, this is a land grab that will sprawl unaffordable homes all over prime agricultural lands.

As of January 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Ontario has been $15 per hour. A living wage for Halton Region (Halton) is $20.75. Yet, most people living and working in the region can’t find an affordable home or even affordable rent.

When affordability of home ownership is compared to affordable house prices in the city of Burlington, a municipality in Halton, it’s clear that only the upper income levels or $271,378 or more have a range of housing options available. But, even at these levels, homes costing almost $1.4 million are out of reach. Currently, the average home in Burlington lists for $1.3 million and sells for the full price.

Unfortunately, the same holds true for those trying to rent an apartment in Burlington. Anyone with an income between $19,481 to $48,579 is unable to access Burlington’s primary rental market – even a bachelor apartment. Households with incomes of $60,072 have limited access in the rental market. While incomes from $72,887 to $146,550 have easy access to Burlington rentals ranging from $1,129 for a bachelor to $1,658 for a three-bedroom.

According to Lucy Sanci, member of Stop Sprawl Halton, “If sprawl was affordable, Ontario would be the most affordable province to live in.”

The 23-year-old actor grew up in her parents’ home in Oakville – also part of Halton – before moving to a trend-setting apartment in Toronto. Sanci lives in a three-story building that contains eight apartments. From the street, her building looks like any other home in her walkable neighbourhood. This is the new intensification or densification as Sanci prefers to call it.

Intensification has had a radical make-over. It no longer means construction tall apartment buildings, instead its new face reflects the homes it exists along side. It’s about basement apartments, garden suites, laneway houses, semi and town houses, and multi-plexes built to look like established neighbourhood homes.

Sanci would like to see a variety of in-fill start being built in Halton because she knows there’s a shift taking place. She says the dreams have changed for those who can only fantasize about becoming homeowners in Halton.

Sanci knows that tearing down one bungalow in Oakville easily accommodates a McMansion, or it could improve availability by becoming eight apartments like her home in Toronto. Sanci is passionate when she says, “We don’t have to sprawl. We can invest in somethings that are better, economical, effective, environmentally sound and inclusive.”

The environmental activist observes, “Inclusivity has been left out of the discussion. We need to include access to affordable housing and access to aging in place. A perfect example is a garden suite for those who want to down-size but age in place.”

Sanci is spot on when she says Halton residents want to age in place and both Oakville and Burlington have an abundance of older residents. In fact, Burlington recently closed two high schools because of declining enrollment.

She points out that young people have no idea that planning gets done years in advance. She says:

“When I was 13 these decisions were being made. Now in my 20’s those decisions are being implemented. There needs to be more public access to find out and to understand the technical language. We need government to make it possible for neighbours to make active and informed decisions. Smart growth is having a choice of affordable housing that allows people to age in place.”

Sanci is proud that Stop Sprawl Halton has maintained a positive campaign that is informing the public and encouraging city and regional councillors and mayors to make the right choice because, “The decisions they make now are some of the most vital for the entire planet.”

A recent delegate before the Oakville Town Council vote, Sanci wants the February 9 regional vote on the Proposed Growth Plan (PGP) postponed.

During that time, Sanci asks regional politicians to consider, “What is affordable housing when you don’t have food and clean water? What does my future hold? Not just in terms of affordable housing, but the climate crisis. Why is it our job to tell you not to destroy our future?”

Doreen Nicoll

Doreen Nicoll is weary of the perpetual misinformation and skewed facts that continue to concentrate wealth, power and decision making in the hands of a few to the detriment of the many. As a freelance...