Spotlight # 1 - Intro to Affordable Housing Spotlight Series

Spotlight #1 on Affordable Housing

Over the next few weeks, the Municipality will be publishing spotlights focusing on what is being done to address the housing crisis. The housing crisis is affecting families in communities all across Canada.  Each level of government has responsibilities for housing - the Federal and Provincial governments, the County and local Municipality. In recent provincial and federal budgets, there has been a focus on housing initiatives to help support affordable and social housing, and to get people into the housing market.   

This week the spotlight will provide a snapshot of what is to come. Be sure to keep an eye out for weekly posts to learn what is being done at all levels of government.

#2 Key Definitions

This spotlight will include some key definitions.  What is affordable housing, social housing and attainable housing?  What’s the difference between market and not-for-profit housing?  What’s the difference be Additional Residential Units and Secondary Dwellings?

#3 What’s being done in Mississippi Mills

What initiatives has Mississippi Mills Council taken to bring more affordable housing options to our community? Municipalities play a role in creating affordable homes and helping to support the development of affordable rentals in our community. This spotlight will include information on the seven new initiatives Council has taken to help remove barriers to housing development, reduce the upfront costs of affordable housing developments and encourage an increase in diverse housing stock.

#4 Lanark County and Social Housing

Social Housing and all programs relating to that is the responsibility of Lanark County. This includes: rent geared to income housing, portable housing units, rent supplements and emergency housing. The County has a 10 Year Housing and Homelessness plan which reflects targets as mandated by the province. The County also helps to support lower tier municipalities’ role in affordable market housing through the recent launch of a housing toolkit. 

This spotlight will also highlight the County’s partnerships with community organizations and service providers which are essential to providing housing and supports to residents.   Building affordable housing units and major capital investment to increasing units comes from the County as well. 

#5 Advocacy Work

On top of County and Municipal efforts, organizations like the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus (EOWC), the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) are advocating for more support from the province for housing and for changes to provincial legislation and regulations to make homes available for everyone. This spotlight will share information about the advocacy role and include information about AMO’s Housing Taskforce and the launch of a new Affordable Housing Taskforce at ROMA.

The housing crisis can’t be solved by one body alone.  Affordable housing and social housing are complex issues where all levels of government and many organizations play essential roles.  Check back weekly for future spotlights.

 Spotlight # 2 - Affordable Housing - Key Definitions

Spotlight #2 on Affordable Housing – Key Definitions

Affordable housing can be very technical, which can make it seem overwhelming at times.  This week, to help clear things up, we are defining some key terms that will be used in future spotlights and come up regularly when people talk about affordable housing.

Key Definitions:

Affordable Housing: Affordable housing can have different meanings for different people and organizations.  When the Municipality refers to “Affordable Housing”, it is a specific definition from the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) 2020 as follows:

In the case of ownership housing, the least expensive of:

  1. Housing for which the purchase price results in annual accommodation costs which do not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. Housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 percent below the average purchase price of a resale unit in the regional market area.

In the case of rental housing, the least expensive of:

  1. A unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of gross annual household income for low and moderate income households; or
  2. A unit for which the rent is at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area.

Affordable Housing requires a formal agreement between the developer or landlord and at least one level of government to ensure that the units continue to meet the definition of “Affordable” over time.


Attainable Housing: Attainable Housing is a newer term that is being used to describe housing that is lower in cost than the average market prices for purchasing a home or renting a unit. It is important to note that attainable housing does not meet the above definition of affordable housing.


Not-for-profit Housing vs Market Housing: Not-for-profit housing is typically operated by non-profit societies, co-ops, and government agencies, and is a crucial source of secure affordable housing for low and moderate-income households. Market Housing is private rental or homeownership units where prices are set in the open market without any direct subsidy.


Social Housing: While all social housing is affordable, the term ‘social housing’ refers more specifically to housing that is subsidized by an upper tier level of municipal government. In our area, overseeing the Social Housing stock is the responsibility of Lanark County (the upper tier municipality) as the Municipal Service Manager. Some examples of social housing programs in Lanark County include:

  1. Rent Geared to Income (RGI): is a housing subsidy/assistance allows qualifying tenants to pay approximately 30% of their income as rent.
  2. Portable Housing Benefit: A monthly subsidy to low-income households to bridge the gap between affordable rent and some or all of average market rent.
  3. Rent Supplement: Helps low-income households to offset high shelter costs by providing up to $200 per month to the landlord.

Municipal Service Manager: Lanark County is a designated Service Manager under the Housing Services Act, and is primarily responsible for the provision of social housing, administration of homelessness programs, and administration of funding from senior levels of government.


Additional Residential Unit (ARU) An ARU is a secondary or accessory dwelling unit on a property where there is already a primary dwelling unit. ARUs can be inside an existing house, added on, or located in a detached accessory structure. These come in many shapes and sizes and are commonly referred to as basement apartments, coach homes, in-law suites and garage lofts. ARUs are typically smaller than the primary unit and are not restricted to only settlement areas.  They are permitted in all areas of the municipality where there is a principal dwelling unit.


While there are likely many more key terms that people may use when discussing affordable housing, the 6 definitions above were chosen to act as a starting point into this important conversation.


Next week we will be looking more closely at what Mississippi Mills is doing including some new initiatives. Be sure to check back weekly for new spotlights!

Spotlight #3 - Affordable Housing - What's Being Done in Mississippi Mills

Spotlight #3 Affordable Housing - What's Being Done in Mississippi Mills

This year, Mississippi Mills has taken a proactive approach to help support the development of both market and not-for-profit affordable housing in our community. To help, Council approved seven initiatives to help remove barriers to affordable housing development, increase housing stock and reduce the upfront costs. The 7 initiatives in Mississippi Mills are:
1. Housing First Pilot Project – Housing First is a strategy where the number one goal is to provide people with stable housing, after which other services and supports are provided. Several municipalities in Ontario that have surplus lands have adopted a “land for housing first” policy. The policy means that the Municipality prioritizes their surplus lands for affordable housing development. If there is no interest from affordable housing providers, the surplus land will then be offered for sale to the general public. 
The property at 34 Victoria Street is a municipally owned parcel of land that is currently vacant. Mississippi Mills Council has recently approved a pilot project as part of a “housing first” initiative to establish a Memorandum of Understanding with a not-for-profit housing provider, Carebridge Community Support Corporation. This pilot provides Carebridge secure access to property to develop affordable housing units in the community as funding opportunities become available from other levels of government
2. Planning fees exemption for not-for-profit housing developments - Mississippi Mills Council recently passed exemptions to our local Planning fees for not-for-profit housing developments. The Municipality already exempts not-for-profit housing developments from a large portion of Development Charges and this new exemption from Planning Fees will further assist in reducing the upfront costs to develop affordable housing projects.
3. Building permit fees exemption for not-for-profit housing developments – Similar to the exemptions to planning fees, not-for-profit developments will now also be exempt from related building fees. These reductions in fees will help reduce the costs for the development of affordable housing units in our community.
4. Cash in lieu of parkland exemption for not-for-profit housing developments – The Planning Act allows municipalities the option to collect either physical land for parkland or cash-in-lieu of parkland from developers. To help reduce costs, not-for-profit developments would no longer be required to pay the cash-in-lieu of parkland. The current calculation for cash-in-lieu of parkland is 5% of the appraised land value. For example, if the land was appraised at $300,000 the cash in lieu of parkland fee would be $15,000.
5. Development Charges exemptions and will be reviewed further in 2024 – The current Development Charges by-law will be reviewed in 2024. As part of the review process staff will be looking into comparable data and will bring forward recommendations to Council regarding any potential new changes to the Development Charges by-law for non-profit housing for consideration.
6. Affordable housing grant program - The approved 2022 budget included $50,000 to go towards an Affordable Housing Grant Program. Staff will be utilizing some of these funds in 2022 to develop a comprehensive grant program in time to be considered for the 2023 budget. This initiative will target the development of affordable market housing in the municipality.
7. Additional Residential Units – Staff will be bringing forward proposals to Council regarding changes to the Zoning By-law to permit Additional Residential Units (Secondary Dwelling Units) in more areas of Mississippi Mills to encourage the development of rental units.
The goal with these initiatives is to support and encourage affordable housing development in our community. The municipality will continue to work with other levels of government, organizations, and developers to help increase the affordable housing stock in Mississippi Mills.


Spotlight # 4 - Affordable Housing - Lanark County

Lanark County is the upper tier municipality in our area and plays a different role than us when it comes to affordable housing and social housing. All programs, subsidies and projects relating to social housing is the responsibility of Lanark County. This spotlight will highlight what Lanark County is doing relating to homelessness, next week we will look into social housing projects and programs.

Lanark County is a service manager which means that they are responsible for overseeing subsidized housing, administering homelessness programs and distributing funding from provincial and federal governments.

So what does that mean and what is Lanark County’s doing to help our homeless population?

1.     Homelessness programs including studies

Lanark County has in place a 10-year housing and homelessness strategy aiming to improve access to safe and affordable housing for Lanark county residents. This plan includes 5 key areas of focus:

(1) increase the supply of affordable housing;

(2) plan for diverse housing needs, meaning that housing options should be available for all groups of the local population;

(3) stabilize and grow current social housing stock;

(4) making sure that there is support and adequate supply of universal housing

(5) educate the community on local housing needs and provide incentives to build affordable housing.

2.     Partnership with Lanark County Mental Health

In 2021, Lanark County entered into an agreement with Lanark County Mental Health (LCMH) for up to $100,000 to employ a registered counsellor/psychotherapist. The position would be an employee of LCMH but would work with county staff to provide support to residents of Lanark County who may require mental health support while dealing with housing uncertainty.

3.     By-Name List

The provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has introduced by-name lists across Ontario. It is an ongoing, real-time list of people experiencing homelessness in our community. The by-name list can be used to connect people to a range of housing options and supports. The list will include information about people’s needs to help prioritize and coordinate housing services and supports, and it is updated on a regular basis.


To learn more about Lanark County Social services be sure to check out their website. Next week our spotlight will focus on sustainable housing projects and programs that Lanark County is responsible for and some exciting new projects on the horizon.

Spotlight #5 - Affordable Housing - Lanark County Part Two

 Affordable Housing Spotlight #4 looked into what Lanark County does to support the homelessness programs. This week we are focusing on what Lanark County is responsible for when it comes to subsidized housing and distributing funding from provincial and federal governments.

Every year, the social services department releases a report to County Council that reviews housing and homelessness initiatives and levels in Lanark County. This report went to the Community Services Committee on June 8, 2022. The full report can be found here.

Building off the report, we have summarized some of the services and projects that Lanark County is responsible for: 

1.      Additional Rent-Geared to income and Portable Housing Benefit 

Over the past year, Lanark County has focused on increasing rent-geared to incomes and potable housing benefit spaces. this has included 10 additional portable housing benefit (PHB) spaces, 10 additional rent supplement spaces and the replacement of lost rent supplement spaces with PHB spaces.  

2.      New Builds and Projects
In March 2022, a new housing development project in Carleton Place opened at 7 Arthur Street. The building contains 15 rent-geared-to- income units and 5 affordable housing units. It contains 4 fully accessible units and consists of 1- and 2-bedroom units to help address the high demand for smaller homes. 

Also, in April 2022, the County awarded a contract to Carebridge Community Support for the construction of 28 units at 44 Chambers St., Smiths Falls. The building will contain 21 one-bedroom units, 6 two-bedroom units and 1 three-bedroom unit. Also, seven of the units will be accessible. 

3.      $6.5 in Social Services Relief Funding through the pandemic

Over the course of the pandemic, more than $6.5 million in provincial Social Services Relief Funding was issued to the county, which supported multiple initiatives and allowed for five additional capital projects: 

  • Lanark County Interval House purchased six housing spaces in Perth
  • Shardon Manor will add nine new beds
  • Victoria House completed renovations
  • Rideau Ferry Country Home completed renovations
  • 2B Developments are undertaking a capital project 

4.      Provincial and federal funding 2022-2023

The Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) is distributing $430,845 among eligible housing providers on a per-unit basis. The initiative will protect tenants living in projects with expiring operating agreements/mortgages and promote the long-term sustainability of non-profit housing providers. 

Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI) funding of $395,000 will be distributed among four programs: Homeownership, Ontario Renovates, Support Services and Administration. OPHI will provide flexible funding to address local housing priorities and improve access to affordable housing options. 

The Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) allocates $1.3 million in five programs: Emergency Shelter, Housing with Related Supports, Services and Supports, Homelessness Prevention and Administration. Municipalities can use the CHPI funding to address local priorities and better meet the needs of individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. CHPI has two key program outcomes: That people experiencing homelessness obtain and retain housing, and that people at risk of homelessness remain housed. 

5.      Development of the Affordable Market Housing Toolkit 

The County has recently developed a strategy to identify municipal tools to support the development of housing which is affordable to Lanark residents with low to moderate incomes. The creation of the housing toolkit included an investigation into the current housing needs in Lanark County and public and community engagement. The result is the development of an action plan with a vision, goals, and recommended actions
with timelines. 

For other spotlight pieces and community engagement opportunities, visit:


Spotlight #6 - Affordable Housing - Advocacy

This is the final installment of the Affordable Housing Spotlight series, which has focused on what all levels of government are doing to address Canada’s housing crisis. 

This week, we look at the advocacy role organizations such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) play in the housing crisis.  AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments, and ROMA is the rural arm of AMO. 

Both AMO and ROMA are advocating for more support from the Province for housing, and for changes to provincial legislation and regulations to make homes available for everyone. This spotlight shares information about the advocacy role and includes information about AMO’s Housing Taskforce and the launch of a new Affordable Housing Taskforce at ROMA. Mayor Lowry plays an active role on both the AMO and ROMA Boards as an elected Director to the Rural Caucus, and she also sits on both Housing Taskforces representing rural Eastern Ontario. 

1.       AMO’s Housing Taskforce 

AMO’s 2022 report, Blueprint for Action: A Coordinated Approach to Address the Ontario Housing Crisis, outlines nearly 90 recommendations on how to guide further action to build a strong housing sector. The recommendations, separated into levels of government, are grouped into one of six categories: Collaboration & Coordination, Funding & Incentives, Improving Outcomes for People, Innovation, Streamlining Processes, and Workforce Development & Supply Chain. 

The purpose of the Blueprint is to provide a starting point for ongoing collaboration and collective work to improve housing in Ontario. AMO stands ready to work with all levels of government and the development sector to ensure that Ontarians have access to affordable, inclusive, safe, and suitable housing across a number of housing options. 

The Blueprint also addresses social determinants such as health, poverty reduction, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. It acknowledges that every municipality faces its own unique challenges and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What is common between all municipal governments, however, is the pressure they face to build and sustain complete communities so their residents can enjoy a quality of life wherever they choose to live. Flexibility, updated zoning bylaws and efficient approval processes are some of the municipal actions identified to facilitate more housing affordability options. 

2.       ROMA’s Affordable Housing Taskforce

Earlier this year, ROMA struck an Affordable Housing Taskforce to help address barriers to affordable housing in rural Ontario. This stems from a plan (Opportunities for Rural Ontario in a Post-Covid World) launched in January that identifies five key themes to shape rural Ontario and recommends approaches and strategies for immediate and longer-term actions. In addition to affordable and attainable housing, other themes include digital connectivity, access to services, workforce development, and growth and development planning. The goal is to position rural Ontario as a vibrant network of communities essential to the social and economic fabric of the Province. 

To implement the plan, ROMA will engage with municipalities, the Province, and key stakeholders, and present its findings at AMO’s Annual General Meeting in Ottawa in August.