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Report shows city lagging when it comes to affordable new primary rentals

A review of rental rates in newly-constructed rental buildings over the past five years revealed none were being rented below the rental affordability benchmark
2021010 Affordability Guelph KA
A faded sign promises downtown condo units priced in 'the low $200s.' Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

As it continues to grow, a new report from city staff says the city of Guelph is on track to meeting some of its obligations to provide affordable housing, although it is lagging in one category.

By the year 2051 the province is forecasting Guelph will accommodate a population of 203,000 and support an employment base of 116,000 jobs as part of a growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. Municipalities within the region are legislated to update their official plans to accommodate these forecasts.

The City of Guelph has set a 30 per cent annual affordable housing target for all newly-constructed residential units. That goal is divided into three affordable housing categories, each with its own target: ownership units, purpose built secondary rental units and purpose built primary rentals.

The city says recent sales data shows that 50 per cent of newly-constructed residential units last year were sold for less than the 2020 affordable housing ownership benchmark price of $421,837, which actually exceeds the target of 25 per cent for ownership units.

Last year, the city issued permits for the construction of 216 accessory apartments. In the report city staff said it is assumed that 106 of the 216 units would be offered for rent below the 2020 rental benchmark price of $1,245, exceeding the affordable purpose built secondary rental unit target of four per cent. 

The purpose-built primary rentals category is a different story. 

The report said 1,250 rental units have been added to the city’s housing stock, mostly in the form of apartments. To meet the affordable housing target of one percent, at least 25 of those units would have to be offered at a price below the affordable rental threshold.

“A review of rental rates in the newly constructed rental buildings over the past five years revealed that none of the new units are being rented below the rental affordability benchmark,” said the report. 

Construction began in 2020 on a new rental development geared toward seniors, in which 65 of the 115 units are to be designated as affordable, but because that development is still under construction and the units are not yet occupied those numbers will be reflected in a future report.
The 2021 affordable housing ownership benchmark purchase price is $420,125 and the affordable rental housing benchmark price starts at $1,295 per month.

The report stated the average rental vacancy rate for all units in 2020 was 2.2 per cent, up from 2 per cent in 2019. City staff said in the report a healthy and balanced vacancy rate for Guelph is about three per cent.

The slight increase in vacancy is due, in part, to the addition of  some new primary rental apartment buildings, like Kortyard rental units at 171 Kortright Road West, the Imperial Towers 4 building development at 978-1042 Paisley Road, and Parkwood Place 3 building development at 772 Paisley Road, 4 Ryde Road and 3 Candlewood Drive.