During his inaugural speech in December 2018, Mayor Bryan Paterson pledged to address Kingston’s crushing housing shortage and that it would be his top priority during his first 100 days in office.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Housing has been meeting since March of this year, bringing together key stakeholders to examine best practices and explore all possible tools and incentives — to enable developers, non-profits and community agencies to build more housing, specifically affordable housing.
“We are supposed to give actionable recommendations to city council,” says Ted Hsu, the co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force, “and these are supposed to be evidence informed.”
In late 2018, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation listed Kingston’s housing rental vacancy rate at 0.6 per cent, the lowest in Ontario.
“We’ve had submissions, for example tiny homes. Or finding ways to have seniors share the extra space they might have,” says Hsu. “Finding ways to reduce the rate at which affordable homes are leaving the stock of affordable residences and moving towards market rents.
“Which are increasing faster than wages,” Hsu added.
Other submissions include speeding up the process for builders to get their permits, incentives and possibly adjusting zoning bylaws to encourage construction.
“We are having a lot of discussions. We don’t agree on everything,” says Hsu. “It is a very diverse committee, which is a good thing.
“So we have different opinions. And I can’t say for now what sort of things we will agree on.”
It is also ironic that in the hallway, just outside the room at City Hall, metres away from where the task force meets, is a display that depicts the severe shortage of housing in post-war Kingston.
The final report will be delivered to the mayor and council at the end of December.