By Peggy McIntosh, member of the Meaford Chamber of Commerce and the Institute’s Social Finance & Housing Group. A version of this article was printed in the Meaford Independent.
In February 2022, the Meaford Chamber of Commerce (MCoC) sent out a survey to Meaford businesses. The goal was to learn more and communicate about “workforce” pressures that businesses are facing. Questions were posed to learn about hiring issues.
The MCoC Business Survey truly just scratches the surface of what we know is likely to be a much bigger “Itch.”
The survey was designed collaboratively by MCoC members, using guidelines from Ontario Chambers of Commerce, by talking to Council, municipality staff, and community members and was reviewed by some members of the Institute of Southern Georgian Bay’s Social Finance & Housing Group. The final survey results data was reported on by a professional survey analyst.
Key messages that came from the Highlights of the Survey include:
- 2 of 3 businesses surveyed anticipate they will need to hire in the coming 12-18 months, and a majority of those businesses anticipate needing multiple employees. Needs are diverse, balanced between full-time and part-time and requiring a variety of different types of prospective employees. 63% of roles to be hired are unskilled.
- Only ~1 in 3 of those surveyed believe that Meaford and the surrounding area can currently house employees for their business.
- Housing is viewed as the top priority in terms of desired infrastructure, and 83% of respondents would like to see Meaford have living accommodations that fill their workers’ needs.
The employers in the Meaford area survey include farmers, shops, restaurants, and some small industry. They make our community a gem. But, in addition to SHOPPING Local, we need to think about LIVING Local. We know, for example, the new long-term care facility, not part of the survey, will support many of our aging residents. Mostly, the facility is looking for personal care workers, but also cooks, cleaners, and maintenance people. Imagine how important it is for these workers to live close enough to be at work on the worst winter’s day.
Everyone deserves a HOME. Care and service providers need homes near enough for comfort and safety. We all need to know and understand what it means to have enough “affordable” housing for our community to thrive.
Numbers bring the message home. Consider these facts:
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) defines affordable housing as housing that costs no more than 30% of before-tax household income – gross household income.
- In 2021, Royal LePage Canada reported the median price for a single-family home in Meaford at $735,000*. Based on minimum down payment**, a buyer must have $58,500 in cash for that purchase down payment. With current posted interest rates, that purchase converts to a monthly mortgage payment of $2,974 – $3,203 per month.
- Based on the 30% definition of “affordable housing” by CMHC, a household paying this mortgage would have to make between $118,960 – $128,000 before tax.
- In Meaford, the 2016 Census reported a before-tax median household income of $65,792, even with adding a modest Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 9.5% *** over 6 years, which brings gross household income (2 or more persons) to $72,042. The average Meaford couple earns less than half of what would be considered “affordable” for the purchase of the average house.
So, maybe everyone cannot own their home. Let’s consider that the average employee will rent their home.
We know that renters typically earn less than half the income of homeowners.**** Based on that, the average couple’s “affordable” rent falls between $800 and $900 per month. Average rents posted fall between $1,200-$2,700 in Meaford, and typically, there are no rentals available.
The Home affordability “gap” for Meaford workers is truly a canyon. This has translated into businesses struggling to hire staff and keep them here. As responsible communities, we all need to say “yes” to homes that everyone can afford – in many forms. “Yes,“ they should fit with the Official Plan and be an essential complement to it. We all want to enjoy personal care and products and services from a strong business community for years to come.
What you can do:
1. Learn about the Official Plan and proposals for bringing more homes to our community. Ask if they have an affordability component (not attainable*****).
2. Think creatively – consider home shares for seasonal workers; consider renting your property long-term vs short-term.
3. Speak to County and Municipality officials about why you WANT more affordable housing built.
4. Learn more about Social Financing projects and donating property for affordable housing.
The MCoC Business Survey was sent out to individual businesses (397) by email on February 4, 2022, and a link was provided through the “Chamber Chat” on February 6, 13 and 20th with a deadline to submit responses by March 1. The survey resulted in 34 responses (just under 10% of the total number of surveys sent out, which is a good industry standard). We are happy to share the full survey report with you and encourage you contact the Meaford Chamber of Commerce Manager, Kim Ware, to request your copy.
*Royal LePage Locations North 2022 first quarter stats are showing average Southern Georgian Bay price increases, year over year to date up 29%, and Phil Soper, President & CEO of Royal LePage Canada, predicts continued double-digit escalation into 2022 for recreational properties.
** Minimum Down Payment Calculation: (5% on the first $500k; plus 10% on $500k-1million)
*** CPI from 2016-2022 is reported as 15.5% at Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator.
**** Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.
*****Attainable – is a vague term, which often is not specifically connected to “affordability in the housing market” but rather to “securing entry to the housing market.”