County report outlines disparity between soaring housing prices and local income
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron County Council is concerned that its housing prices and available options aren’t connecting with salaries being earned in the area, meaning the average Huron County family can’t afford the average Huron County home.
This discussion came as a result of a report presented by Economic Development Officer Natasha Gaudio Harrison at council’s June 23 meeting, which was held virtually via Zoom. Gaudio Harrison presented data compiled in recent months for the Huron County Housing Demand Survey of 2021.
In five-and-a-half years, Gaudio Harrison said, the average sale price of a home in Huron County more than doubled. It rose from $231,971 in March of 2015 to $476,704 in July of 2020. Since then, the average sale price for a home has only continued to rise, with the average local sale price hitting a record high of $616,215 in May of 2021.
During the period of January of 2015 to November of 2020, the median household income in Huron County has only risen slightly from $65,944 to $72,808, nowhere near the doubling of the real estate market.
Currently, housing supply levels in Huron and Perth Counties are the lowest on record, Gaudio Harrison said in her report. Housing supply has steadily decreased since 2017 and the limited supply has increased list prices and average sale price beyond average affordability.
Due to rising housing prices, Gaudio Harrison said another concerning trend has been many people losing their housing and being priced out of the market. This has come largely by way of those who own rental properties deciding to sell them because of the red hot real estate market and renters being forced to relocate.
According to the survey 20 per cent of respondents said they would be losing access to their current housing in the near future. Another 13 per cent filed their responses under “Other (Please Specify)”, which Gaudio Harrison said was just a more detailed response from those who were losing access to their current housing soon. That meant nearly 35 per cent of those people surveyed, looking to relocate within Huron County, were doing so because they were losing their current housing. With the market the way it is, she said, they would be entering an environment that would make it difficult for them to find an affordable alternative.
Of those who responded, 57 per cent said they were currently renting, while 24 per cent said they owned their current dwelling. Thirteen per cent said they were living cost-free (with their parents or other family), while four per cent said they were experiencing homelessness and two per cent said they preferred not to answer.
What people were looking for, however, was still a level of privacy that came with a single detached dwelling, Gaudio Harrison said, which clashed with affordability and intensification work being done at the county level.
Nearly 315 people responded by saying they were in search of a single detached house, while 171 said they wanted a single detached house on a rural property. All other answers then decreased, with 155 seeking a rowhouse or townhouse, 151 seeking a semi-detached house or 146 seeking an apartment unit in a dedicated apartment building. Numbers then decreased even further for those seeking an apartment unit as part of another building (101), a condominium (95), a duplex (94) and a mobile home (84).
Over half of those surveyed said their range for buying a home was between $200,000 and $299,000 (36 per cent) and $300,000 and $399,000 (26 per cent). A further 13 per cent said they could pay between $400,000 and $499,000, while nine per cent said they could pay between $500,000 and $599,000.
Only 11 per cent said they would pay what constitutes the average current home sale price in Huron County, whether it be $600,000-$699,000 (four per cent), $700,000-$799,000 (four per cent), $800,000-$899,000 (one per cent) or $900,000 and above (two per cent). Six per cent said they preferred not to answer the question.
This concerned Huron County Council as the two sides of the home sale equation - prices and the money available to pay them - were not close to matching up.
Gaudio Harrison agreed, saying that while she conducted the survey, she had many people comment that they were surprised that the lowest range began at $200,000. In 2015 and earlier, she said, it wasn’t uncommon to find homes for sale in Huron County under $200,000, but prices have risen so dramatically since, pricing many out of the market.
“Rental housing is in critical need throughout the county. There appears to be a preference for apartments in dedicated apartment buildings,” Gaudio Harrison said in her report. “There is a preference for low-density housing, i.e. single-detached or rural property and farms, but the prevalence of row houses and semi-detached housing as a second or third choice suggests these housing types would fill a need.”
She added that rental housing prices and market housing are beyond the affordability ranges of most respondents.
Gaudio Harrison also detailed where people were looking for housing in Huron County, which, she said, with the exception of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, which appeared lower on the list, appeared to begin at Lake Huron and work its way inland. Goderich ranked first, followed by Bluewater, Central Huron, Huron East, South Huron, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, North Huron, Morris-Turnberry and Howick.
While councillors were concerned that the average Huron County household was being priced out of the average Huron County home, Director of Economic Development Cody Joudry said he and his team have been working on a solution and that he was excited to present the department’s findings to council very soon.
He said he couldn’t be any more specific, but that a report would be coming to a council meeting in the very near future, which intrigued several councillors.