As a local journalist writing about the need for low-income housing two decades ago, I noted there were at least 3,000 names on a local waiting list for affordable shelter.
Examining the same issue as a Kitchener councillor grappling with the 2015 budget 20 years later, I’m appalled to see there are currently 3,000-3,500 names on the same regional wait list for low-income, subsidized housing.
And I estimate that those names represent about 10,000 children and adults surviving in sub-standard housing.
Which is why, as part of budget sessions, I would like councillors consider and invest in a plan to create a program that would help increase the number of affordable homes in our city.
The program — tried successfully in other Ontario and Canadian municipalities — encourages developers of rental housing to build a percentage of low-income units in their projects in return for various incentives. The bonuses reduce planning fees and allow homebuilders to construct an increased number of units in their developments.
The program to increase low-income housing was recently selected as one of the top subjects on a wish list of 12 priority action items suggested by councillors for the current four-year council term. Because of potential cost and staff work time to research the subject, it has not, to date, been included in budget spending.
I have asked staff to prepare a budget issue paper to detail what would be required to research such a program and hope to introduce a motion to push ahead with the concept even if it involves hiring a contract planner to do the work.
I’m doing so because I’m convinced that unless more is done by Kitchener and other municipalities to reduce that ongoing waiting list for shelter, we have little hope of addressing the ongoing issue of poverty and homelessness that, in part, results in the number of marginalized people frequently seen on our downtown streets.