There are several ways that the city of Kitchener engages with residents on a variety of issues. Both the city and individual councillors use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share information and update citizens on important information. There are also public consultations, open houses, citizen advisory committees, and of course, all Committee and Council meetings are open to the public and streamed online. There is also Engage Kitchener, an online tool for gathering input and feedback from residents.
I have filled out a number of surveys on the Engage Kitchener site and I check it somewhat regularly as it’s a good way to stay up to date on what projects the city is currently working on and also an easy way for me to provide feedback on those projects. In fact, I just completed a survey on there this week on a topic that is extremely important to me - Affordable Housing. When you visit the site, you’ll see a number of surveys up there, including one on the bike lane pilot, inclusionary zoning, and Kitchener’s website transformation.
If you click on the Affordable Housing Strategy link, you’ll see details about the main steps in the process and where the project currently sits. There’s also a bit of background information and goals of the project. The site states that "The City of Kitchener recognizes the importance of strong and diverse neighbourhoods where residents can grow and thrive. As a vibrant and caring community, we’re taking steps to make housing more affordable in our city so Kitchener can be an even better place for everyone to call home. A key action from our Corporate Strategic Plan is to create a caring community through the development of an Affordable Housing Strategy.
In collaboration with the Region of Waterloo, community groups and the development industry, the city is currently in the beginning stages of developing an Affordable Housing Strategy aimed at addressing challenges to housing affordability in Kitchener across the housing continuum. As demand for housing in our city increases, we’re working to find solutions that will encourage a broader range of housing options and increase the supply of affordable housing opportunities available."
After reading that information you can fill out the survey which asks for your thoughts on challenges to affordable housing, what actions should the city prioritize in this strategy, and what areas of the housing continuum should we most focus our efforts on. You can then provide specific ideas and feedback on how different stakeholders, such as upper levels of government, developers, and community organizations could best be utilized in creating and maintaining more affordable housing in our community.
Surveys take varying amounts of times, and this one was estimated to take about 10 minutes. It took me a bit longer as I had a lot to say on this particular topic. All comments are collected, reviewed by staff, and included in the report that eventually goes to council for approval. You can fill out surveys as a guest, or you can register with Engage Kitchener. One benefit to registering is that once you have completed the survey, you are emailed all of your responses, so you have a record of it. You also receive occasional updates of new surveys available to complete.
No single approach to seek feedback from residents will work for everyone, so I appreciate that there are a variety of engagement tools that the city uses (although I have some thoughts about other engagement tools they could include, but I’ll save that for another day…) For me, I appreciate being able to provide feedback online as I can do it from my home when my schedule allows. If that appeals to you, and you have not yet visited the Engage Kitchener site, I encourage you to take a look at it soon. And because I think it’s such an important issue, I’d encourage you to fill out the Affordable Housing Strategy survey while you’re there.