Local taxpayers should read it and weep.
They have paid about $1 billion for a bungled, much delayed light rail system that I’m glad to see has generated at least $1.2-billion construction activity in downtown Kitchener.
But the same taxpayers are now, through local councils, shelling out excessive development “bonuses” to the same developers who are already making large profits on high-priced condominium units selling vigorously along that LRT route.
At the same time, not a single unit of affordable housing is included in the hundreds of condo buildings being approved mostly in my downtown ward by councillors and planners.
That reflects a grossly inequitable payback for taxpayers and was the reason I voted at planning committee, Monday, against a project by Momentum developments that wraps around the beautiful heritage Huck Glove building at Victoria and Bramm streets.
And while I congratulate Momentum for saving the Huck building, I think those bonuses are out of whack.
In this case, they will incorporate a zone change that permits an intensified 25-storey building that will have 300 units. They also include an outdoor park area that will be replaced with a partly-indoor “public amenity area” and parking spaces that will be reduced from 411 to 233.
I voted against the project to protest the fact Momentum has or will soon build more than 1,000 high-rise condos on Victoria and at Charles-Gaukel that include no affordable shelter despite the fact Waterloo Region has 3,000 names — about 10,000 adults, children and seniors —on a waiting list for low-cost housing.
After two Kitchener councillors — planning chairman Paul Singh and downtown representative, Sarah Marsh — declared conflicts of interest and didn’t vote on the issue, the remaining councillors and Mayor Berry Vrbanovic approved the development. Singh’s conflict is because his father owns property adjacent to Momentum sites on Victoria while Marsh’s conflict involves purchase of a Momentum condo.’
Buried somewhere under the blanket of bonuses we are shovelling out to developers is a responsibility that those companies make certain affordable housing forms part of their projects. Meanwhile, local politicians should, but are not, doing their utmost to make certain that responsibility is met.
When the issue returns to council on March 19, I hope councillors remember that, no matter what your income, housing is supposed to be a basic human right for all Canadians.