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Greenstone prepares for potential population boom

Greenstone council prepares for housing strategy as Greenstone Gold mine inches closer to opening.
Greenstone municipal building

GREENSTONE — During the recent council meeting, staff and Council reviewed a presentation prepared by Consultant Tim Welch regarding Greenstone’s housing strategy.

Although the housing strategy is still in its first phase, which centres around gathering data from stakeholders, council, and provincial surveys, Welch’s presentation provides an overview of Greenstone’s current housing situation and population as they prepare to seek out opportunities to accommodate the potential growth with the operation of the Greenstone Gold mine.

Welch notes that since 2001 Greenstone’s population trend has declined over the past 20 years by 1,300.  

“Of course, things have changed quite dramatically just in the last couple of years,” said Welch, referring to the 600-plus construction jobs that have resulted due to the mine.  

According to Welch, the majority of the Greenstone population is over the age of 50, where 400 residents are nearing retirement age between the ages 60 and 64.

“Democratically, the population is aging. That is not unusual throughout the province. Although, your demographic breakdown is a little bit higher than provincial averages,” said Welch.

Welch pointed out that this statistic comes into play when thinking about the accessibility need of seniors when developing housing.

Over 40 per cent of the home in Greenstone were built between 1961 to 1980, but since then, new built have drastically declined with less than five per cent between 2016 to 2020. A total of 16 new single detached units have been constructed over the last decade, according to Welch.

“Also worth noting, when you look at your municipality compared to other municipalities in the province you have certainly a much higher percentage of homes that are single detached. A lot of people pretty much want to have a single detached home, but when you look at different housing needs in the community, it is important to have a variety of housing types,” said Welch.     

Walch also said that the medium prices of housing have increased. In 2013, homes in Greenstone were valued at $43,000; however, by 2022 ownership prices skyrocketed significantly to $185,000.

“You are looking at more than a quadrupling of medium prices in the last decade,” said Walch.

However, Welch said the data he is presenting does not include waterfront homes, “which would have a significant premium on their prices”

Currently, Greenstone is set to see a boost in population over the next few years. Once Greenstone Gold Mine begins operation in mid-2024, nearly 500 permanent mining positions are anticipated to become available for the next 15 years.

“Of course, there is the economic impact of those jobs, as well as, spin-off through other industries or local businesses nearby that are manufacturing or repair and construction industries. There are also impacts in terms of the service industry for the additional workforce coming into the community, whether it’s in retail or restaurants or other personal services,” said Welch.

However, Welch said that the municipality must be prepared for the incoming population. Although new developments will increase the tax base, the municipal infrastructure and services will need to mean up with the new demand.

Welch said Greenstone has opportunities to accommodate population growth. The municipality has a significant land supply to accommodate single detached housing, but Welch also notes that the municipality has limited zoning for higher-density housing like townhouses and apartment complexes.

Mayor James McPherson stresses the importance of having a housing strategy in place before the mine begins operations.

"We need to know what we need for housing, not just for the families coming into the mines, but for those other people that are in town and those of us that are maturing," McPherson said. "What type of housing we are going to need going forward going into the next 10, 20, 30 years?”

The second phase of Greenstone’s housing strategy will begin with public consultations later this month through a virtual presentation so all areas of Greenstone can participate. 

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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