You would never know it but affordable housing has been one of Kitchener council’s top six priority items for at least three years.
And while the city has been delaying planning programs that will encourage creation of low-cost shelter, we have fallen behind Cambridge and other Ontario municipalities that, to a lesser degree, include Waterloo.
I would suggest two things that should encourage Kitchener to fast track a low-cost housing program that, sigh, will likely still take one or two years to fully implement.
The first involves being ready to take advantage of $12.6 billion in federal cash that, later this year, could be directed toward affordable housing. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and mayors of large Canadian cities including Kitchener’s Berry Vrbanovic have been pushing Ottawa on this urgent issue.
The second has to do with soaring, local property values along and near the LRT route.
I’m already seeing situations where, as property values increase, low-income tenants including scores of newcomers and refugees are being squeezed out of redeveloped buildings.
This will increase the 3,000 names (at least 10,000 seniors, children and adults) languishing for years on a Waterloo Region list for low-cost housing.
We need to work with regional government to embrace incentives that include density bonusing, municipal fee exemptions, property tax grants and delayed payments of development charges to boost construction of low-cost shelter.
And while some councillors bleat about Kitchener possibly doing more than its share of low-cost housing and fret about loss of income created by incentives, I intend to push council and staff to stop waffling and give greater priority to low-cost housing.
It’s time to get off our butts on affordable housing projects that should be spread throughout Kitchener and Waterloo Region.