Hawkesbury council has approved changes to a plan designed to encourage the development of more affordable housing in the town.

On June 28, the amended version of the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) was adopted, after more than one year of review. The Hawkesbury CIP was first approved in 2017 – offering 12 grants and tax incentives for new industrial development.

On May 17, Hawkesbury council held a public meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the CIP. The changes are designed to encourage private sector developers to build affordable homes in Hawkesbury.

According to a study by the Rural Development Network in 2020, the incidence of low incomes in Hawkesbury is nearly double that of other communities in Prescott-Russell and Ontario. Approximately 57 per cent of households which completed the survey reported paying more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing.

The report said between 971 and 1,191 households in Hawkesbury will be in core need of affordable housing as of this year. Single-parent families were identified as in the most need of affordable homes, while one and two-bedroom dwellings are in the greatest demand in Hawkesbury.

Manon Belle-Isle, of the planning firm WSP, recommended adding six more grants and incentives to the CIP. Belle-Isle, who is also the former senior planner with the Town of Hawkesbury, said the proposed grants would cover up to 100 per cent of development charges on affordable housing developments, up to 100 per cent of minor variance and building permit fees for affordable housing developments, up to 100 per cent of property tax increases resulting from affordable housing developments, and up to 100 per cent of the property tax increase on new rental housing developments. The other two proposed grants are related to covering up to 100 per cent on building permit fees and property tax increases on new industrial developments.

The amended Community Improvement Plan approved by council includes the additional grants and incentives which were recommended by Belle-Isle. No further amendments were made by council at the public meeting or afterwards. Comments from the public on the proposed CIP amendments were accepted until June 7.

Council also approved the creation of a CIP advisory committee, which will be composed of personnel from the municipal planning, construction, and finance departments. The committee will review CIP grant applications and advise council on if they should be accepted or rejected.

“Council has the final say,” commented Councillor Yves Paquette.