St. Thomas mayor stresses housing as main city need in 2020
St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston has three main objectives in 2020. He wants to address housing, transit and smart growth.
As his first term reaches the 15 month mark, he spoke to constituents at a New Year’s levee Sunday. It was held in conjunction with the grand opening of the new Social Services building on Talbot Street.
"We are sitting in a place where the city delivered affordable housing in 2019. 'Do we need to do more?' Significantly more."
Preston says council has already had special meetings specifically about housing.
City manager Wendell Graves tells CTV News they really need to bridge the gap between those that can't afford to be in a single-family home and affordable housing.
"We are in a beautiful facility with 28 units and we hope to break ground on another facility on the same land later this year," says Graves.
The housing market in St. Thomas is booming, especially in the southeast end. U-Haul recently named the Railway City the third largest growth city in the country, behind only Vancouver and Trenton.
"We are growing at around 1,000 people per year, or more, we want to handle that well," says Preston.
"We have co-operation with regional municipalities including London and we're working together to help growing at that pace. St. Thomas can be a bright star but the whole region has to work together to make it work."
Graves says he was surprised to learn of the ranking by U-Haul.
"I do know that all our developers have both feet on the gas pedal, building right to the limits of the city," says Graves. "We hope to have a whole new area of the city ready for development that isn't zoned for residential right now.
Graves added after a recent inventory check, he believes there will be approximately 750 units coming available in the coming months to address the apartment need.
Preston was also talking transit. Since taking over in October, 2018, the mayor has helped improve local transit services, but more work needs to be done.
"We have put proposals forward and they've been accepted by the province. We are now just waiting for the feds to finish off the transit and regional transit. We think it will be a special community growth thing."
And sticking with growth, he wants the community to grow smart, saying it's expanding faster than anyone could have expected.
"Industry is coming," says Preston. "Housing, parks, and trails all growing at the same time. We need to be smart along the way."