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 Attainable Housing in Wellington County Attainable Housing Strategy Why More Housing
Community Stories Additional Residential Units (ARUs) FAQ's

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Attainable Housing in Wellington County

Wellington County needs more housing options to support our community’s growth and prosperity.

Our housing isn’t keeping up with our growth.

Wellington County must grow under provincial legislation. We are welcoming new businesses, workers, and families. Young adults are choosing to stay here or move here. New Canadian families are joining us here. Older adults are retiring here.

This is contributing to a vibrant community. Growth strengthens our local economy, creates jobs and opportunities for everyone, adds volunteering capacity, and introduces more diversity to our shopping, dining, and neighbourhoods.

A growing community needs to ensure it provides a range of housing options to meet these needs. Right now, we don’t have enough of these options. Young people are struggling to find independent housing. New families can’t find reasonable rental units or starter homes. Retirees are having trouble downsizing. Employers with good jobs are struggling to attract workers. Our economy and wellbeing are being stifled by low housing stock.

We can improve our housing options in Wellington County.

As a community we can develop more attainable rental and ownership options including townhouses, stacked townhouses, small multi-unit buildings, condominiums, duplexes and triplexes, converted factories and more.

Attainable Housing Strategy

The purpose of this Attainable Housing Strategy ["Report"] is to provide recommendations to assist the County of Wellington ["The County"] with its attainable housing shortage.

This Report was initiated from a need to develop recommendations to address the shortage of attainable housing for the County’s workforce but has expanded in scope to focus more broadly on establishing strategies appropriate for all low and moderate-income households across the County. The term attainable, for the purposes of this Report, refers to housing provided for purchase or for rent and subject to public intervention at the time of purchase or construction.

Please see below the consultant's executive summary.

Request the full Housing Strategy Report in PDF

Executive Summary

The Problem

The lack of attainable housing is making it difficult for local employers to attract and retain workers, with some employers incurring costs in order to house or transport their workers. This problem is further influenced by the County’s geographic location, which is in close proximity to major economic centres in the City of Guelph, Waterloo Region and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area [GTHA]. It is anticipated that this economic pressure will attract residential activity from outside the County, increasing the development of low-rise housing forms, which are not attainable.

The dominant form of housing in the County is single detached dwellings which is a type of housing that is no longer affordable for moderate income households. Current data regarding housing supply indicates that the total number of newly constructed units is not on the rise, while housing prices are increasing. In addition, the rental market is experiencing similar challenges with respect to attainability. The County’s vacancy rate of 1% is also making acquiring rental housing difficult.

The term attainable, for the purposes of this Report, refers to housing provided for purchase or for rent and subject to public intervention at the time of purchase or construction. Public Intervention takes many forms and can include:

  • Deletion of exclusionary policies from the Official Plan to enable a range of housing types.
  • Inserting permissive policies in the Official Plan to require range of market housing types in specific locations.
  • Provide incentives such as eliminate or diminish development charges, education levies, parkland dedication levies, building permit fees, planning application fees and realty taxes.
  • Apply for Federal and Provincial housing grants or loans to assist with purchase and construction of attainable housing and/or land acquisition.
  • The County may provide grants or loans to enable land acquisition or assist in dwelling purchase.
  • The County may provide covenants to assist in land acquisition, dwelling purchase, and/or construction financing.
  • The County may waive property taxes for a specified period.
The Approach

The solution requires the implementation of various strategies, not only financial tools but County initiatives and land use planning mechanisms to increase the production of attainable housing units which meet the needs of different households. Land use planning regulations which lack flexibility can play a key role in inhibiting the creation of lower-cost housing by the private sector. To establish a list of action-oriented recommendations, a policy analysis and public consultation process were undertaken.

A Pilot Project considering the option of a Community Land Trust [CLT] and an Attainable Housing Options Portfolio focused on built form and construction methods, accompany the Report as appendices.

Policy Analysis

Provincial policy plays a role in the delivery of attainable housing as it creates a framework for managing growth and provides policy direction to guide land development. As part of this Report, the Growth Plan [2019] and the Province’s Housing Supply Action Plan [2019] were reviewed. Through this review, it was uncovered that recent changes being implemented by the
Province’s Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 [Bill 108] are aimed at increasing housing affordability. Bill 108 introduces beneficial amendments related to second units such as allowing two second units on one property, by permitting two residential units in a main residence [single detached, semi-detached or rowhouse] and one in an ancillary structure.

At the County level, an analysis of the County’s Official Plan was conducted to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing policy framework. The Report also reviewed and compared the County’s policies to those of Dufferin and Perth County, which are both counties of a similar population size and character.

The intention of this review was to assess differences in how each County addresses housing supply and affordability from a policy perspective. This review was also helpful for comparing and understanding potential implementation policies which can be put in place to encourage the
development of attainable units.

Community Engagement Strategy
The Community Engagement Strategy consisted of a detailed process to consult with the public through key stakeholder interviews and a public survey. Questions were asked to identify public perceptions on the challenges associated with creating attainable housing and to discuss factors related to development such as built form, cost and location. The key “stakeholders” were selected from a broad list of individuals, provided by County Staff, that hold in-depth knowledge of issues and opportunities related to housing and community development in the County. The public survey questions differed from those asked of key stakeholders and focused on understanding the public’s opinion on existing housing issues and needs.

The policy analysis indicated that the housing and affordability policies in the County’s Official Plan are adequate but from an implementation perspective, the Official Plan lacks policies to incentivize the development of attainable housing. Density bonusing is one tool, present in both the Dufferin and Perth Official Plans, which the County does not include. This land use planning tool would allow the County to increase attainable housing units as a community benefit in exchange for greater heights and densities for new developments.

The County Official Plan also includes  language  which  places  emphasis on the dominance of single detached dwellings as a primary built form expected to continue. This language is problematic as it is counter-intuitive to diversifying the built form of the existing housing stock, which is critical to improving housing affordability.

Through the simulated Community Land Trust [CLT] Pilot Project, particularly the cost analysis component, it was determined that public intervention by way of incentives are mandatory to provide housing at a price substantially lower than current market prices.

The Community Engagement Strategy was informative for revealing what the public believes are some of the key challenges associated with developing attainable housing units. Stakeholders responses suggested that some of the leading reasons are unsecure/lengthy development approval processes and property limitations. The availability of serviced land is another road block for inhibiting the development of attainable housing.


There is no one recommendation which will remedy the County’s attainable housing shortage. A comprehensive approach incorporating different types of strategies is needed. This Report established three types of recommendations categorized as: policy-based recommendations, financial incentives and County action-oriented initiatives. The timing for implementation varies per recommendation, with the policy-based recommendations being more long-term in nature. The County will be undertaking a review of their Official Plan through a Municipal Comprehensive Review [MCR] process in the near future. The timing of this Report aligns well with the County’s upcoming MCR process as it provides an opportunity for the County to receive comments on its Official Plan policies and consider potential changes to be made to support the development of attainable housing.

The implementation and success of these  recommendations  relies  on  the support of multiple parties including County Staff and Council, key stakeholders, the development industry and the willingness of the community to embrace change. Outlined below are the recommendations suggested for the County to consider in order to increase their attainable housing supply.

Policy Based Recommendations
  1. The Establishment of an Attainable Housing Growth Target.
  2. Density bonusing.
  3. Streamlining of the planning approvals process [i.e. implementing a Development Permit System].
  4. Strengthening and updating the Official Plan policies regarding second units.
  5. Amending the Official Plan’s existing Community Improvement Planning policies.
  6. Amending policies in the Official Plan to support a greater diversity of building typologies and construction methods [such as modular].
  7. Conducting a review of the local Zoning By-laws to reduce regulatory barriers such as minimum lot size requirements, minimum setback requirements and parking requirements. A reduction in the amount of land required for construction greatly lowers the cost of land acquisition and housing construction.
  8. The use of Secondary Planning to address local issues.
 Financial Incentives
  1. Development Charge reductions or exemptions.
  2. A reduction in Parkland Dedication requirements.
  3. Planning Application and Building Permit fee reductions and/or exemptions.
 County Action Oriented Initiatives
  1. Encouraging the creation of a Community Land Trust [CLT].
  2. Incorporating discussions surrounding attainable housing development in Pre-Application Consultation Meetings with builders/developers.
  3. Passing Demolition Control By-laws to assist in the preservation of rental units.
  4. Locating existing publicly held sites such as school sites or underutilized hotels/motel sites which would be appropriate to convert for rental units.
  5. Developing a Public-Private Partnerships Task Force and obtain CMHC. funding to undertake detailed research about innovative building forms and construction methods. The Task Force would also be responsible for locating areas in the County to support this type of innovative housing.
  6. The establishment of Communal Workforce Housing as a short-term strategy.
  7. Conducting an analysis of servicing availability in the County, both existing and future capacity, and developing a database to compile this data.
 Next Steps
It is recommended that the Economic Development Department be tasked to develop a Working Group to review and evaluate the various recommendations presented in this Report. Our impression is that a Working Group of Economic Development staff, Planning staff and with participation from members of the Wellington County Municipal Economic Development Group would be appropriate.

Why More Housing?

Five critical concerns if we do not have enough housing options:

  1. We can’t fill essential jobs that support us. Healthcare workers, long-term care home staff, restaurant and food employees, and workers in industries add millions to our local economy.
  2. Businesses struggle. Employers need to spend excessive time recruiting and supporting stressed employees who commute long distances or struggle financially due to high housing costs.
  3. Good people leave. Young adults who want to stay, new families hoping to build lives here, older adults who are downsizing or need new accommodations – all are at risk of leaving our community.
  4. Housing costs soar even more, further worsening the problem. Supply and demand economics are simple: low inventory + high demand = increasing costs.
  5. Our communities don’t thrive. Our economy will stagnate while our families, friends, and neighbours may require more social services, food security or poverty assistance, will volunteer less and have a harder time contributing to their community.

Read More FAQs

Download our Conversation Starter

Attainable Housing and Saying ‘Yes in My Backyard’

The mission of the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination is to work collaboratively, informed by diverse voices of experience, to take local action and advocate for system and policy change to address the root causes of poverty.

Say yes to accepting our community’s collective responsibility to make our shared space welcoming to everyone. When everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home our whole community benefits.

Read more on effective communication around attainable housing in Guelph and Wellington County in the presentation below.

Open the accessible YIMBY Attainable Housing presentation

Community Stories

Documenting real housing challenges in Wellington County.
Kyle's Story
Bert and Louise's Story
TG Minto's Story


Read More Community Stories

Additional Residential Units (ARUs)

What is an ARU?

An Additional Residential Unit (ARU) is an accessory to a principal dwelling unit, located on the same property. ARUs can be connected to or detached from the principal home. 

Homeowners can choose to add to their existing properties: basement apartments, second or third suites, garage conversions, even smaller homes built on the property. They add to the rental inventory and often give homeowners a source of income.

Thinking about building an ARU?

Have you added an ARU to your home or property? We want to hear stories from Wellington County as part of an ongoing public awareness campaign around attainable housing. 

Tell your ARU Story

Are you interested in an ARU for your property?

Interested homeowners should start by consulting their local building authorities.

Attainable Housing FAQs

What is the County doing to address this?

  • Wellington County has amended its Official Plan to allow for Additional Residential Units (ARUs) and all County municipalities have also changed their bylaws to accommodate at least one additional rental unit on properties.
  • The County is currently reviewing and updating Official Plan policies to prepare for added growth and to ensure that the Plan is supporting healthy, compact and complete communities in Wellington County.
  • The County is undertaking a Municipal Comprehensive Review to provide recommendations on amendments that align with the Attainable Housing strategy and these imperatives.
  • The County meets regularly with developers and builders and is encouraging proposals that align with the goals of the Attainable Housing strategy.
Can I add rental housing to my home or property?

Yes. All County member municipalities have approved adding Additional Rental Units on existing properties. Exact allowances vary by municipality – start by consulting local building authorities in your municipality to get started. You can add a new income stream while helping solve an important issue.

Will different types of housing change the character in my neighbourhood?

Builders work with communities to introduce mixed housing designs that work with the character and heritage of the neighbourhoods. Both affordable and market-rate housing must meet the same restrictions and design standards of the neighbourhood and can be designed to fit in with the character of the area. 

Will rental properties in my neighbourhood be badly maintained and run down?

There is plenty of evidence here and in other communities that poorly maintained rental properties are rarely a concern: apartments and rental units typically have high upkeep and must comply with the same property standards bylaws as all homes. 

How can we keep the town I grew up with? Won’t a lot of new people change that?

  • Our neighbourhoods are already changing and together we can set the right tone for that change. Many municipal plans are in place to ensure that our natural environment, quiet pace, safe and welcoming community will not change as we grow. 
  • Often, the future occupants of new housing already live in the neighbourhood. They are people sharing an apartment with others or struggling to pay market rent by giving up meals or other essentials.
  • We need to attract people here to fill important jobs that help keep us safe, healthy, and living the lifestyle we desire. We don’t presently have housing to keep people in those jobs.
  • More diverse neighbourhoods have also been proven to add to the rich fabric of our community and do not lower property values or neighbourhood appeal.
Will new housing increase demands on our municipal services and make taxes go up?

Generally, higher-density housing needs less extensive infrastructure than new development – features like piped water, sewer services, schools and roads already exist when these properties are added to existing neighbourhoods. Also, higher-density development and infill can provide the larger customer base needed to reduce the per-resident cost of municipal services.

What about converting old buildings into new housing?

Absolutely – as a community we can explore how we re-use former institutional properties such as schools, hospitals, government buildings and places of worship, as well as re-develop vacant or abandoned commercial or industrial buildings and empty parking lots that often accompany these sites. These conversions can often be done with minimal changes to municipal infrastructure, bringing new rental or home ownership inventory, and new energy, to our neighbourhoods.

Won’t my property values go down with mixed housing nearby? Won’t crime go up?

This has not been experienced in Wellington County. Studies on affordable housing conclude that there is no impact on property values or crime rates when more diverse options are introduced to a neighbourhood. The Ontario Homecoming Coalition reviewed 26 studies and in 25 they concluded adding supportive housing had no impact on property values.

If you add too much housing, traffic and parking will just become a problem.

Typically, multiple-family dwellings are likely to attract residents with lower levels of car ownership. However, careful review of this is part of the development process: as with any new development, a higher density or infill-housing proposal must meet the municipality’s planning standards and variances to current standards require public input.
 We don’t want to deal with the construction chaos.
We need more housing – whether it is detached homes or multi-unit buildings, there will be construction, however developers follow high standards and work closely with local authorities to mitigate excessive noise or disruption.

Answers drawn from Ontario Human Rights Commission.

© 2023 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, TF 1.800.663.0750, F 519.837.1909