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Finally, some good news in Barrie on the rental housing front.

The city is going through an honest-to-goodness building boom in purpose-built rentals.

For whatever reason, the city has traditionally lagged well behind the rest of the country in multi-unit buildings created for the specific purpose of being rented out. The gap is partly filled by people renting condos, basement apartments, etc.

Statistics Canada reported there were about 17,000 households living in rental housing in Barrie a few years ago; just over 4,000 of them were in purpose-built rentals.

That 22.6 per cent is less than half the Canadian average of 47 per cent and barely more than half the Ontario average of 43.7 per cent. There are many factors behind the city’s affordable housing crisis but shortage in the overall market is one.

Relief may be in sight.

One thing I learned from my years on Barrie city council is that there is a big difference between a development being approved and a development being built. Barrie has well over 10,000 units of housing approved but not developed.

Signs saying “Coming Soon” or “Imagine the Views!” don’t mean anything. Unless I see a crane on site or a foundation going in, I remain skeptical.

But take a drive around the city and you’ll see a recently completed 10-storey building containing 116 rental units on Hanmer Street, and an eight-storey building containing 93 rental units on Dunlop Street.

There is a building under construction on Dean Avenue that will have 199 units, and another on Johnson Street with 215 units.

Those four buildings total 623 new rental units, quite a remarkable increase in a year or two. In fact, it’s a jump of more than 10 per cent in the city’s purpose-built rental stock. Many more could be on the way.

There also finally seems to be work taking place on the lot across from the downtown library. Skeptic that I am, I’ll wait to see the cranes move in before celebrating, but it promises to be 223 new rental units, along with about 50 condominiums.

That could be just the beginning. The city has approved well over 3,000 rental apartment units, mostly in the downtown area, in recent years. To emphasize, those are units the developers say will be rental apartments, not condos.

And many are by credible developers who have a track record of actually building, as opposed to proposing. If all were built, the number of purpose-built rental units would be double what it was a few years ago.

Very few of these units proposed or currently under construction qualify as affordable – probably less than 100. And none are much-needed supportive housing, although a 12-unit transitional housing building is going up on Lillian Crescent and construction should get underway next year on the 176-unit Simcoe County Housing development on Rose Street.

But an overall increase in supply will take some of the pressure off the very tight rental market in Barrie, even if it is just to prevent the situation from getting worse as the city’s population grows.

And that’s good news for everyone.


Story by: Barrie Today