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City Council defers decision on sale of market-rent homes

City of BrantfordCity Council defers decision on sale of market-rent homes

City of Brantford Council voted to postpone its decision to sell city-owned market-rent homes by one month during its regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

The resolution in question called to sell around 25 homes that were initially purchased by the City as part of a plan to build the Brantford Southern Access Road (BSAR).

As the BSAR has since been cancelled, the City is now looking at selling the homes in order to put the funds into a reserve to help build more affordable housing within the city.

Several residents attended the June 25 meeting to express their concerns after they received a letter from the City at the beginning of June asking them to let housing staff know by Thursday, July 3, 2024, if they had any intention or interest in buying their rental property. 

A resident who spoke on behalf of the neighbourhood said that those who live in the rental units are worried that they won’t be able to afford to move out as many of them have been there long term and are covered by rent control.

During the question portion of the delegation’s time, Councillor Richard Carpenter clarified with Smith if her and the others’ concerns stem from the issue that many of them are paying around $1,100 or $1,200 a month in rent and that if they move out, they will likely be paying anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 a month in rent elsewhere. 

Smith confirmed that this was exactly what their concerns were and that despite Ward four and five councilors hosting a last minute meeting to hear the residents’ concerns on Tuesday, July 2, her and the other renters wanted to see the decision delayed until there was some sort of resolution that works for everyone. 

“I’m here to speak for most of us that live in the area and we want the decision reversed as we’ve been living there for many, many years,” said Tammy Smith. “A lot of people can’t afford to leave these homes because we’ve done our own upgrades and a lot of people are looking at being homeless. …The whole neighbourhood is in an uproar, we’re sad, depressed and crying; we have no clue where we’re going.”

Councillor John Sless later asked City Staff for their side of the story and wanted confirmation if it was true that the residents would have 30 days to leave their homes if they decided not to buy the property

Ray Petro, Manager of Real Estate for the City of Brantford, said that while there were concerns about the timeline, in the event that the home can’t be purchased by the existing tenant, the City’s housing staff would be helping the tenants through the transition and that they would only be selling one or two properties at a time as to not over saturate the market. He said that it could take two to three years before all the homes were sold off. 

“When the property has been determined by Staff that it’s going to hit the market, notice will be given to the tenant and the property goes on the market. There’s a specific time it takes to sell a property, I can’t forecast exactly how long that is, but on average, right now, it’s 45 days,” said Petro. “So that home would be on the market for 45 days, and once the City were to accept the firm and binding offer, the legal obligation is 60 days closing and we’re offering a minimum of 120. So, we’re looking at a minimum of 150 days notice for any potential tenants to have to vacate the property. That’s if the purchaser is looking for vacant possession.”

Councillor Rose Sicoli said that while people are upset and confused about the situation, she would be supporting the resolution to sell the properties. 

“I know that this is hard, but we have 20 odd houses that we own for one reason and one reason only and that was for a highway,” she said. “We no longer need these homes so I will be supporting this moving forward tonight without any deferrals or amendments, because in fairness, unless I could offer the same rent subsidy to all the hardworking individuals in Brantford who are struggling to pay market-value rent, myself included, …I can’t, in my heart, continue to provide that for 20 odd households.”

Mayor Kevin Davis said that despite how hard it is to make decisions that impact individuals, the decisions are made for the greater good of the entire community and that he would ultimately also be supporting the resolution. 

“When you’re in this chair you have to make some pretty hard decisions and sometimes hard decisions impact individuals but you do it because of the greater good and we’re here to serve the entire community. This council committed three or four years ago to a very aggressive plan to build and construct affordable housing in our community …and unfortunately, it takes money,” he said. “Our housing plan was fully funded through what are called development charges, and the provincial government decided about a year and a half ago that we could no longer use development charges for that purpose. That has left about a $20 million shortfall on our affordable housing budget, where we’re actually constructing homes.”

He said that while there are around 20 individual families who will be affected by the sales,, the decision will ultimately help to create “three times the number of housing units.”

Councillor Brian VanTilborg said that issues like this one are what’s contributing to the City’s housing problem.

“This contributes to our housing problem and now the City is no different than the private sector. There’s an asset there that we can sell and it’s going to get a lot of money, and yes, that asset that’s dedicated will provide monies into the fund for housing but in the meantime, it displaces all these people,” he said. “…As a city, we have to be more responsible than the private sector. There are some things we’re doing better, but quite frankly, there’s nothing in writing that says that we should do it that way.”

He said that he hoped that the other councillors would support the deferral to allow the Ward councillors to meet with the tenants and advocate on their behalf. 

“If you’re saying, ‘no, let’s go ahead with this, we’re going to do the greater good,’ well, to me, if the greater good means we’re not going to listen and we’re going to put somebody out in the street.”

Councillor Richard Carpenter later noted that when this originally came to council a couple years ago, they had decided to wait until the tenants left on their own time as that was a more compassionate way of doing things. 

“This started June 14, 2022 and around that time, I believe it was Councillor [Gino] Caputo who said, ‘I’m not going to kick people out without some kind of a compassionate way to make sure they’re moved on to other kinds of living or other opportunities.’ Council the day turned it down and then it came back again to council through another report in April 2023,” said Carpenter. “At that time, the recommendation was that we would sell these houses eventually but there was a part in there that said, ‘market rent homes will be placed on the real estate market only once a unit becomes vacant.’ It was compassionate and it had some common sense in there.”

Before the vote, Carpenter moved to defer the decision by one cycle.

“I think there’s been a lot of errors made here, and I think that we as members of Council were restricted from speaking to our constituents about what was coming their way by our in-camera policies,” he said. “I think that’s unfair so I’d like to move a motion that we defer this for one cycle for the Ward councilors to meet with the constituents and for Staff to find solutions.”

The motion was then passed on a vote of 7-4, noting that Mayor Davis, Councillors Martin, Sicoli, and Caputo all voted to oppose the deferral.

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