Access to adequate housing is a basic human need. However, it’s becoming increasingly out of reach for many people locally and across the country. Representatives from The Lakelands Association of REALTORS® have firsthand experience with this struggle and are working hard toward finding solutions in their communities.
The association launched a task force on attainable housing in fall 2018. The first meeting was held in spring 2019. “When we sent out tender for volunteers for the Attainable Housing Task Force, we had an overwhelming response,” says Chuck Murney, who is the task force chair. “Those who were selected to sit on the task force were chosen for their passion, commitment to their communities and overall skillset.” These agents are from all four of the major regions that the organization represents: Andrew Hodgson and Karen Nimigon of Haliburton; Debbie Gilbert and Paul Cleary of Orillia; Suzanne Martineau of Muskoka and Scott Broad and Murney of Parry Sound.
“As we connected we learned very quickly that the issues affecting Huntsville and Orillia were very similar to those affecting Parry Sound and Haliburton and everywhere in between,” says Murney. “Any time there has been an attainable housing event throughout the district we have had multiple agents looking to volunteer their time to share our collaborative REALTOR® perspective.”
One of the universal problems across all four geographical areas is people cashing out and escaping bigger centres to move to the Lakelands regions, which pushes up values and makes entering the market out of reach for a lot of first-time home buyers and entry-level consumers.
On top of meeting with this specific group, each of these individuals on the task force works directly with their local community groups and industries to address the attainable housing struggles that are specific to their jurisdictions. For example, Martineau, a seasoned Muskoka REALTOR®, sits on the broader Muskoka Housing Task Force. She acts as a liaison between stakeholders, ensuring that the that agents’ insights are communicated back to the regional task force, which includes developers, politicians and other decision-makers. “We speak for the people,” she says. “These issues are complex and multilevel.”
Lakelands Association of REALTORS® President Wendy Webb says it’s imperative that REALTORS® share their specialized, local insights in this way. “We do our utmost to help make our clients’ goals a reality. Part of that means serving as their advocates in these public spheres.”
The Lakelands Associations of REALTORS® Housing Task Force also coordinates with the organization’s political action committee to ensure that timely topics related to attainable housing are part of the conversations happening in Ottawa. The association expects that attainable housing will be a key issue in the upcoming federal election and representatives look forward to collaborating with candidates on various housing related solutions so that more Canadians can realize the dream of home ownership.