Affordable housing strategy

Suburbs

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.

Over the next year, an advisory committee made up of city councillors, members of the public community partners, development industry professionals, academics, city staff and regional housing staff, will help inform the strategy. As part of the scope of this project, Kitchener residents will also have the opportunity to provide input through online and in-person consultations to shape decision-making that will have a significant, positive impact on housing in our community.

Project Phases 

 Phase 1: Project planning
 Establish Work Plan, Create Advisory Committee 
 Phase 2: Housing Assessment

Collect and review data to provide a foundation for the Affordable Housing Strategy and a basis to consider development of an inclusionary housing policy and zoning by-law for Kitchener. Public Engagement to occur. 

 Phase 3: Issues and options
Identify action options to address housing challenges, identify implications and possible directions of Inclusionary Housing Policy and zoning. Public engagement to occur.
 Phase 4 A&B: Prepare Affordable Housing Strategy & Inclusionary Zoning Amendments 

The Affordable Housing Strategy will be available for public review and feedback. Possible Statutory Public Meeting for Official Plan/Zoning By-law Amendments for Inclusionary housing 

 Phase 5: Approval 
Council decision on final strategy and actions and Inclusionary Housing amendments   
 Project Update

On June 24, 2019 Council approved the development of an Affordable Housing Strategy. Since then, the following has occurred:

  • Project, terms of reference for the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee have been drafted and have a diverse group of people have been assembled to advise staff. 
  • In collaboration with the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo we are seeking a consultant to explore the feasibility of implementing an inclusionary housing policy and zoning by-law. This work is being done
  • On Oct. 28, 2019 Council endorsed an update to Kitchener’s residential zoning to allow a more flexible range of housing type, such as apartments above a garage or “coach houses” - small structures separate from the main building.
  • Council also referred the issue of regulating lodging houses to the Affordable Housing Strategy development.
  • The Region of Waterloo has approved $3.6 million in capital funding to Menno Homes to help create 30 new affordable housing units at 544 Bridgeport Road East, Kitchener and $1.6 million in capital funding to Maxwell Building Projects to help create 13 new affordable housing units at 18 Guelph Street, Kitchener.
The first meeting of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee is scheduled for Nov. 18, 2019.  

FAQ's 

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing means that a household that is able to meet its housing needs while still being able to afford other essentials. Affordable housing is not just about cost. It is also important to consider other factors like the condition of the home and whether it comfortably accommodates the number of people living there. 

In Canada, housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income. Many people understand the term “affordable housing” as a reference to rental housing, subsidized by the government. In reality, the term is much broader in that it can include housing provided by the public, private, and non-profit sectors and can refer to all forms of housing tenure such as rental, ownership, co-operative ownership, as well as temporary and permanent accommodations. 

What is Core Housing Need? 

“Core housing need” is the indicator used in Canada to refer to households that are not living in, or unable to access acceptable housing. It describes households living in dwellings considered inadequate in condition, unsuitable in size, and unaffordable.

  • Housing is adequate when it does not require major repairs according to its residents.
  • Housing is suitable when it has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to the National Occupancy Standard (NOS).
  • Housing is deemed affordable when its shelter costs represent less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income.
Why do we need an Affordable Housing Strategy?

The City of Kitchener has recently experienced a 50 per cent increase in the cost to purchase housing and a 30 per cent increase in the cost to rent housing. Visible homelessness has increased. Kitchener residents and the business community have identified affordable housing as one of the top issues facing the city.  

An Affordable Housing Strategy outlines the city’s role in supporting affordable housing. It will establish targets and serve as an action plan for improving housing options and opportunities in Kitchener. 

What kinds of affordable housing will be included in the Affordable Housing Strategy? What about homelessness?

The Affordable Housing Strategy is intended to address the full housing continuum – from homelessness, shelters, transitional housing, supportive housing, social housing, co-operatives, co-housing, rental housing, affordable home ownership and market ownership housing to meet the diverse needs of Kitchener residents through all stages of their lives. 

What can the city do to address housing affordability? 

There are several ways a city can address or influence affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Strategy will help determine which tools will be most useful in Kitchener.

 

Examples of Municipal Tools

Planning Strategies

  • Official Plan Policies
  • Mix Land Uses
  • Infill Development
  • Transit Oriented Housing

Zoning Tools

  • Inclusionary Zoning
  • Density Bonusing
  • Secondary Suites
  • Development Agreements/Amenity Contributions
  • Alternative Development Standards
  • Decreased Parking Requirements

Approval Processes

  • Efficient and Timely Approval Processes
  • Fast Track Approval Processes for affordable housing

Research

  • Monitoring and reporting on Housing Information and Trends
  • Undertake pilot projects

Communication

  • Share information from housing policy, finance, planning, and development industry professionals on strategies that leverage the existing affordable rental housing supply and encourage the development of new affordable housing.
  • Present best practices for the creation and maintenance of affordable housing
  • Communicate the social and economic benefits of affordable housing development and social housing programs.

Facilitation

  • Support new or existing programs, approaches or policies related to the maintenance of the existing social housing supply and efforts to stimulate new affordable housing development
  • Support  regional, provincial and  federal government activities that revitalize existing social housing and that create future affordable housing
  • Support community leaders and organizations working to address housing and homelessness challenges in the community.

Financial 

  • Establishing a Housing Fund
  • Special Property Tax Levies
  • Use of City Land 
  • Development Charges
  • Incentives

Partnerships with Other Groups

  • Foster collaboration and identify partnership opportunities
  • Engage local housing-related industry professionals discussions about policy tools and regulatory changes

Advocacy

  • Lobby other Governments to provide Affordable Housing

Direct Provision - Fund or build Affordable Housing 

What is inclusionary zoning? 

Inclusionary zoning is an optional land use planning tool used by municipalities that requires residential developments of 10 units or more to include affordable housing units. These units would then need to be maintained as affordable over a specified period of time. This tool is typically used to create affordable housing for low-and moderate-income households and works well in locations experiencing rapid population growth and high demand for housing, accompanied by strong economies and housing markets.

Inclusionary Housing Assessment Information Requirements

  • Demographics and population:
    • Household incomes;
    • Housing supply by housing type that is both existing and planned for in the OP;
    • Housing types and sizes needed as IZ units;
    • Current average market price and rent for each housing type, taking into account location;
    • Potential impacts on the housing market and potential financial viability of development or redevelopment from IZ by-laws on unit set asides, affordability period, measures and incentives and price or rent of an affordable unit, taking into account value of land, cost of construction, market price, market rent and housing demand and supply. The analysis must also take into account provincial policies and plans and official plan policies related to growth and development;
    • Written opinion of the impact analysis from a person independent of the municipality.
 What is a housing assessment? 

A housing needs assessment typically involves gathering and evaluating specific demographic data, economic characteristics and trends, current and projected housing inventory and characteristics, government policies and incentives, reviewing the adequacy and availability of selected community services, as well as collecting the input of area stakeholders and residents. An assessment concludes with identifying the gap between the number of housing units needed in the market by tenure (rentals vs. for-sale), price point, bedroom type and market segment (e.g. families, seniors, disabled, young professionals, etc.) and the number of units . The assessment also typically provides recommendations on how to achieve certain housing goals and will provide recommendations on potential housing policy initiatives that would benefit the local housing market. 

Interested in getting involved? Subscribe to this page for updates on the progress of this project and to become aware of opportunities to provide input.

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