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Dear Editor,

What can be done to increase the housing supply, especially for younger and low-income people? Candidates running for city council were recently asked this question, but it's no secret that the widely-known strategies don't work very well. Construction costs a fortune, meaning that new apartments generally cannot be offered for reasonable rents, even with government incentives. Fortunately, as a full time real estate investor and landlord, I know exactly what to do about this problem. I know better than any of the candidates, and, best of all, I'm already doing it.

Readers may be surprised to learn that Owen Sound has a shadow inventory of uninhabited apartments. The number of unoccupied units is larger than anyone realizes; I keep finding more and more of them. The fastest, most affordable way to increase the housing supply is to bring these apartments back online.

This shadow inventory exists for several reasons. Some landlords have units in various states of disrepair, and aren't able to complete renovations themselves. Other landlords have been burned by bad tenants, express apprehension about signing up for another round of abuse, and leave spaces vacant to preserve their sanity and peace of mind. Certain landlords don't even mean to be landlords, and simply get stuck holding property as a result of family circumstances (a strange phenomenon, I know).

As I uncover more and more shadow inventory, I buy it, fix it, and lease it to individuals and families. Some of it requires a bunch of renovation money; some of it needs nothing but cleaning and paint. Whether I stumble upon a small project or a large one, the cost to buy, renovate, and return a unit to the market is always a small fraction of any other affordable housing initiative.

I'm personally taking responsibility for bringing as much shadow inventory as I can back to the market. Other low-income housing strategies may have some merit, but we must first maximize the utility of what we already have.

Jon Kepler

Owen Sound


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