Anybody who listened to young working folk around Tobermory would assume that there is a vacancy rate of approximately zero. But they’d be wrong.
There are quite a few places that are empty all winter because the owners can make more offering them as short-term rentals in the summer than they can renting by the year. This poses a serious problem for our community — it forces long-term rental prices beyond the budget of many people who would otherwise love to move here.
And then there are the three provincially-owned Rent-Geared-to-Income houses that are empty. At a time when housing for workers is under intense pressure, this seems very odd.
The RGI houses are vacant for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they are badly in need of repair and maintenance — nobody wants to rent them as they are and nobody is tasked with fixing them. The other reason is the nasty asterisk in the RGI equation: if your income goes up, your rent goes up. In fact, your rent goes up so high that it’s more cost-effective to move out and buy a house.
Councillor Smokey Golden brought this situation to my attention, including providing the photos you see here. While three members of our municipal council were attending ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association), Councillor Golden attended a round table meeting in Owen Sound with MPP Bill Walker and Housing Minister Steve Clark. She was the only municipal rep from anywhere on the peninsula. She asked for help creating more seniors housing in Tobermory “because this is where their lives have been, and they deserve to be in their own community”. She also drew their attention to the empty and deteriorating RGI housing in Tobermory. Apparently there are similar situations across the province and both the Minister and MPP Bill Walker were “aware of the problem”.
It is important here to make a distinction between “aware of the problem” and “doing something to solve the problem”.
And for those who feel this situation can’t be helped — I mentioned the vacant RGI houses to a member of Tobermory’s business community. “Put them on the market,” he said. “At market value, I’d buy one in a heartbeat and use it for staff housing.” He suspected that other business owners would snap up the other two for the same purpose.
Staff housing offers a way for people to live and work in Tobermory who would not otherwise be able to. That fulfills exactly the need that RGI housing was supposed to address. Ironic or what?
So if you’re talking to MPP Bill Walker or Housing Minister Steve Clark, feel free to mention the as-yet-unsolved problem of deteriorating RGI housing in Tobermory. Ontario has two excellent choices here, but in the interest of decorum, I will mention only one of them: “Or get off the pot”.
I would like to thank Councillor Golden for attending that round table meeting and bringing MNBP’s concerns to the Minister’s attention. I would like to thank the three Council members who attended ROMA. The extra effort makes a difference for all of us.