Kitchener councillors voted unanimously this week to review a series of incentives that will help increase the city’s supply of low-income housing.
The approval to hire a planning student who will assemble information about incentive-bonus housing programs used by municipalities came during a 13-hour budget meeting.
And, although I’m convinced the review will repeat work already done by Waterloo Region housing officials and other Ontario municipalities, the council decision at least represents a slow start toward recognition of the increasing affordable-housing problem.
The program provides developers with a smorgasboard of incentives and bonuses that will increase construction of low-income homes, particularly in and around Light Rail Transit station areas spread throughout downtown wards.
Earlier this year, affordable housing was identified by most Kitchener councillors as one of their top 12 priority work items.
Lower-tier municipalities like Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and the townships or single-tier cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton are the only bodies allowed to sponsor incentive programs because density bonusing comes under their control.
This week, I joined Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Couns. Dave Schnider and Sarah Marsh at a seminar about low-income housing held in Cambridge where regional and municipal officials joined homelessness and social activists to discuss the subject.
We plan to join forces with Waterloo and Cambridge in order to continue efforts to have subsidized housing treated as a high-priority subject because we all share the responsibility for easing a situation where the region has 3,000 names on a waiting list for affordable shelter. Those names represent at least 8,000 children, seniors and adults who, for decades, have made do with inadequate housing.