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 Strategic Plan is to create a caring community through the development of a Housing Strategy.

In collaboration with the Region of Waterloo, community groups and the development industry, the city is developing a 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.

Affordable housing means equitable access to safe and appropriate housing for all. City Staff therefore shifted the name of the Affordable Housing Strategy to simply, the Housing Strategy. This removes the stigma sometimes associated with affordable housing as if it is less than other housing. Through this strategy and its engagement, staff are committed to actively working towards removing the stigma from all forms of housing in our City and the people that call it home. 

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.

 Advisory Committee Members

Public: Kathy Hamilton, Linda Terry, Martin Asling, Margaret Ellis-Young, Karen Taylor-Harrison, Regan Sunshine Brussé, Charles Nichols, Alan Praught, Janice Bock.

 

Kitchener City Council: Debbie Chapman, Christine Michaud, Dave Schnider, Paul Singh.

 

Non-Profit: Lori Trumper, Elizabeth Clarke, Karen Coviello, Dan Driedger, Aleksandra Petrovic Graonic, Jessica Bondy, Joe Mancini, Al Mills, Carl Cadogan.

 

Industry: Alex Sumner, Mike Maxwell, George Bikas, Stephen Litt, Tracey Appleton.

 

Region of Waterloo: Ryan Pettipiere.

 

LHIN: Rhonda Wideman.

 

Academic: Brian Doucet.

 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.

On August 31, 2020 Council received the first draft of the Housing Strategy. For more information, read the full report or read the Draft Housing Strategy.

The Phase 4: Draft Housing Strategy Survey is now available on Engage Kitchener. Have your say by visiting EngageWR.ca/Affordable-Housing-Strategy. The survey will remain open until the end of October 2020. 

Please visit the Project Update section of the web page for the most current updates. 

Project Phases 

 Phase 1: Project planning

Establish Work Plan, Create Advisory Committee 

 

For more information, read the full report

 Phase 2: Housing Assessment

A housing needs assessment has been completed by the city through consultation with the city's Affordable Housing Strategy Committee. The Housing Needs Assessment Report (updated with end of year 2019 data on Jan 24,2020) was brought to Community & Infrastructure Services Committee on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. 

For more information, read the staff report

 Phase 3: Issues and options

Identify action options to address housing challenges, identify implications and possible directions of Inclusionary Housing Policy and zoning.

Community stakeholders including members of the public, non-profit community, and the development industry were engaged through an Engage Kitchener Survey and through interviews. Engagement for this phase is now complete.

 

For more information, read the survey engagement summary.

 Phase 4 A&B: Prepare Housing Strategy & Inclusionary Zoning Amendments 

Phase 4 A: The first draft of the Housing Strategy was delivered to Council on August 31, 2020.

 

For more information, read the full report or the Draft Housing Strategy.

 

Phase 4 B: The Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing: Background and Fiscal Impact Analysis report was delivered to the Planning & Strategic Initiatives committee on September 28, 2020.

 

For more information, read the full report.

 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:

  • On Sept. 28, 2020 the Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing: Background and Fiscal Impact Analysis report was brought to the Planning & Strategic Initiatives Committee.
  • On Sept. 25, 2020 the Draft Housing Strategy Survey on Engage Kitchener opened for engagement.
  • On Aug. 31, 2020 Council received the Draft Housing Strategy.
  • On Jul. 30, 2020 City Staff in collaboration with the Advisory Committee prepared the first draft of the Housing Strategy, which includes Key Actions the City can take and Strategies to get to where we want to be.  The first draft of the Housing Strategy will be presented to Council on Aug. 31, 2020 and the next phase of community engagement will begin.
  • The fourth, fifth and sixth meetings of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee took place virtually on Apr. 21st, 2020, Jul. 9th, 2020 and Jul 30th, 2020 respectively. 
  • On May 8th, 2020 The Engage Kitchener Survey Closed, there were 177 responses through a mix of online, digital and paper media. For more information, see the survey engagement summary.
  • On Apr. 1, 2020 in collaboration with the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo the Inclusionary Zoning Engage Kitchener page opened for engagement.
  • On Mar. 13, 2020 three of the four sub-committees to the Advisory Committees were formed and work commenced on their respective mandates:
    • Defining Affordability Sub-Committee
    • Engagement Sub-Committee
    • Research and Best Practices Sub-Committee
    • Lodging House Sub-Committee (Work to begin in Fall 2020)
  • On Mar. 13, 2020 the Affordable Housing Strategy Survey on Engage Kitchener opened for engagement.
  • The first, second and third meetings of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee took place on Nov. 18, 2019, Jan 29, 2020 and Mar. 12, 2020 respectively. 
  • On Feb. 24, 2020 a Council Strategy Session was held to both engage Council, and provide an update on the Affordable Housing Strategy.
  • On Jan. 13, 2020 the Housing Needs Assessment Report was brought to Community and Infrastructure Standing Committee. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.

Frequently asked questions 

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 104 per cent increase in the cost to purchase housing and a 41 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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