Staying home

Posted: November 10, 2017 at 8:59 am   /   by   /   comments (4)

Imiss Mary Darlington. Mary lived just around the corner on East Street—the house where a pair of trees were coaxed decades past to join a few feet off the ground— forming a distinct arboreal X symbol on her front yard. Mary wrote a column in this newspaper for a time—a gentle and hopeful contemplation of her garden. Yet her writing seemed to transcend description of buds, earth and sunlight—immersed in the words the reader joined her in careful observation of the beauty and charm that exists in the everyday. She walked every day. To the Post Office. To the church. Foodland. Slight and always cheerful, Mary offered a warm and enchanting encounter to those fortunate to know her.

But when the house and yard became too much, there was nowhere in Wellington for her and her husband, Arthur, to go.

I remember the day they left. Arthur had been ailing for some time and they decided they just couldn’t manage in their house. She mourned the idea of leaving this village. Her church. Her garden. Her routine. Her home. But there was nowhere here for them to live.

I had never seen tears on Mary’s face before. Never seen her so anguished.

Mary and Arthur moved to an apartment in Trenton. It was the sensible decision. But leaving the village was painful. Not so far away. But far enough.

Arthur has since passed away. Mary visits from time to time. But it’s not the same.

There is a new proposal being put f orth for condominium apartments in Wellington. Three four-storey buildings on the patch of grass between the LCBO and the medical centre on the village’s western edge.

The prospect is worrying to some. Objectionable to others. Too big, too dense, too close. Folks worry about retail rising on the edge of the village, eroding the vitality of downtown. Some worry about the appearance of apartment blocks on Wellington’s western gateway. And, if you live on Elmdale Drive, and your home backs onto the greenspace, you are sure to be displeased about the prospect of three new condominium buildings blocking your view of the lake.

But before we prepare our petitions and picket signs, let’s first acknowledge the housing market in Wellington—and to a lesser extent, the County—is broken. Demand to live here far outstrips the available supply. Not nearly enough homes are being built, or are coming available on the resale market to feed this demand. Those homes that do come up for sale, trade at prices that make living in Wellington unaffordable for many, if not most.

Wellington on the Lake is building homes as fast as it can, but that community will soon be filled. And besides, it is not for everyone. As many as 700 new homes are planned for the northern edge of the village, but these developers have been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade with no clear prospect for breaking ground soon.

What all this means is that homes that traded two years ago for $200,000 are being snapped up for $400,000 or more. At these prices, the economics, for some, means converting to a vacation rental. More problematically, as neighbourhood streets are consumed by AirBnB and VRBO rentals, we run the risk of treating the symptom rather than the disease— or losing focus from the challenge before us—namely a demand-supply imbalance.

The bottom line is that Wellington, and indeed Prince Edward County, needs more housing. More types and variety of housing.

Only when this happens will the pressure ease on the limited stock available. It isn’t a panacea— home prices won’t go back to where they were—but this damaging trend will be disrupted. And we will see some balance return. Only then we can have meaningful discussions about creating and nurturing affordable housing.

To do this, residents, businesses and council must join together to encourage and streamline new home development in this community. That doesn’t mean giving builders carte blanche. Instead, we must work alongside them every day and remind them of the values we hold dear about our community.

But we also must get over the instinct to block change and development—especially when it comes to housing.

We are hardwired to resist change. But the indisputable fact is that our inability to build new homes in sufficient quantities in Wellington is warping and twisting this community far more than any condominium project ever could. That must change.

This week Barry Davidson announced a partnership with RoyalCliff Homes to begin construction of the Twelve Trees development—30 condo apartments, six townhomes— next spring in Wellington. It’s a start.

Sandbank Homes hopes its plan for 49 new condominium apartments units will be presented to council by the end of the year. Some units, though not all, are expected to start in the low $300,000 range. Though not affordable to all, it does begin to give folks who live in Wellington an alternative to moving away.

Just as compelling from a market perspective is that these new units will provide some short-term relief from demand and supply imbalance.

It’s not a fix. It’s a start.

Let us build housing that enables our aging demographic to remain in their community. Let us do what we can to ensure that other Mary Darlingtons are able to stay in Wellington for as long as they desire.



Comments (4)

  • December 2, 2017 at 2:04 pm p.petrie

    I would like to point out error in the writer’s article; the proposed condo development by Sandbank Homes is for 3 buildings, 4 to 6 stories which will include almost 90 parking spaces. So basically the green space between LCBO and Medical Centre will be paved over.

  • November 26, 2017 at 8:59 am David Wilson

    Good article Rick, that hits the nail on the head. Bring on these condos as soon as possible. Let’s move forward on housing in this area, not try to live in the past.

  • November 11, 2017 at 9:49 am perry petrie

    Sandbanks Homes want to develop condominiums between the liquor store and the medical center, for one reason only profit, the land is currently zoned commercial use if there was demand for commercial real estate they would have developed the property before now, the only way for them maximize their profits is develop the property as mixed use condo’s……

    Condo development takes years to compete most builders will not stick a shovel in ground until at least 50 percent of the units are pre sold is that type of short term relief house the write thinks would have kept
    Mary Darlington in Wellington. No it will only attract investors looking vacation rentals properties and. to cash in rising real estate values.

    Citizen of Wellington should get out there with our there petitions and picket sighs to oppose this type of urban development that most live here to get away from.

  • November 10, 2017 at 2:30 pm Ex Castillo

    Rentals shaping alternative housing options for students, transient residents, low to middle income and travelers finding best place to stay. These are just some of the brands identifying the vacation rentals and lodging businesses possess. Likewise setting up regulations to these entities has to be acted equally and justifiably bringing favors both the vacation rental business and to that who has the same line of business. Please check to learn about vacation rentals.

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