The draft report from the Affordable Housing Strategy committee was released earlier this month. I have spent some time reading through it and have identified what stood out to me as the key issues and ideas outlined in the report. The report is 42 pages long, so this post runs on the long side (and has a second part!), but I hope it provides a good understanding of the report's contents (without being too overwhelming!).
The report begins with a land acknowledgement and call to action based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and states, “that a more comprehensive approach to reconciliation is required to address systemic inequities, racism and to better support, celebrate and deliver services to Indigenous Peoples in Kitchener.”
The report then identifies why this work is important: “The availability of housing choices that meet people’s needs mean safer, more sustainable and more vibrant communities. It enables public services to be more efficient and effective, and businesses to be more diverse and prosperous. It helps heal social divisions and make cities stronger.”
The report notes various individuals and groups involved in the process, including those with lived experience: “The preparation of the draft Housing Strategy is informed by the voices of those with lived experience, generously shared through in-person, virtual and survey connections.”
Growth expectations are outlined as: “Over a 25-year period, Kitchener is expected to grow by approximately 80,000 people, which is equivalent to about 35,000 new households. The city is changing with taller buildings, increasing urbanization and a trend to smaller household sizes. This growth brings both benefits and challenges.”
The report notes that there are affordability issues throughout the whole housing continuum and the Housing Strategy must address the entire continuum, not just one section of it.
But whose responsibility is affordable housing anyway? From the report: “All levels of government, the private sector and the non-profit sector have roles to play in addressing housing need in a community. Building on the findings of the 2020 Needs Assessment, the Housing Strategy is intended to help Kitchener maximize the use of senior government programs and private sector incentives to increase the supply of affordable housing for residents.” From the report:
The report outlines issues of supply and demand locally.
“Housing needs are not being met and the existing silo approach by levels of government, non-profits, institutions and the private sector is not as effective as needed. Filling the housing gaps cannot be met by market forces and the development industry alone. Significant investment from the federal and provincial governments in funding housing that fills the gaps is needed to meet people’s existing needs.” From the report:
The report sets out goals to increase transitional and supportive housing, community housing, and affordable rentals (less than $1300/month).
Focusing specifically on what Kitchener can do (in complement to upper levels of government), they seek to develop policies on Inclusionary Zoning, Lodging Houses, Parking Waivers, Parkland Dedication Waiver (for Affordable Housing), Community Improvement Plan, and HomeShare model (from Region of Waterloo).
The City is looking into the feasibility of several incentives for affordable housing to be built, including: Fee Waiver Policy for Not-for-Profits; interest-free deferral of development charges; reduction of development charges; and the creation of a Housing Reserve Fund.
The city wants to explore options to better utilize city land, including: identifying which lands may work well for affordable housing, a supportive/community housing pilot, and the feasibility of incorporating affordable housing into other city (re)development projects such as community centres and fire halls.
How best to advocate for affordable housing? The city must: “Jointly advocate for Provincial and Federal funding for housing acquisition, renovation and development of affordable housing and related supports along the housing continuum as part of community building, sustainability and economic recovery”
The strategy also advocates for a variety of funding opportunities in support of organizations such as House of Friendship, Reception House, and MennoHomes, as well as with private sector affordable housing developers.
Partnerships are essential to this work, as noted in the report: "Develop jointly a Region/City Charter to ensure more collaboration and opportunities to identify and address housing challenges in Kitchener. Continue working with the private sector and facilitate partnerships with non-profit partners to provide more affordable housing.
The city notes some of the challenges in collecting Kitchener-specific data and general areas in our local housing market that are proving problematic, including: renovictions, commodification of housing and speculation, and short-term rental markets.
The city says that there is a need for additional work to assess housing needs for: People who are experiencing homelessness; Indigenous Peoples; Seniors; Immigrants; Students; Future population; LGBTQ+; and Women.
Other work outlined in the report includes: tracking and monitoring renovictions, using the city’s social media to better inform and engage residents on housing issues, and establish a lived-experience advisory group to advise staff on housing issues, monitor implementation, and measure success.
That's a pretty comprehensive overview of the report. There are some additional things I'd like to share from the report, but this is already much too long, so that will be available in part 2 of this post! Thanks for reading.