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Kingston’s Home Base Housing urges Queen’s to convert KCVI into student housing

Home Base Housing is asking Queen's University to convert KCVI into student housing due to the lack of affordable housing in Kingston. Mike Postovit/Global News

A Kingston agency that helps those experiencing homelessness has some ideas on how to redevelop the former Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute building.

Queen’s University has just purchased the heritage property from the Limestone District School Board.

Home Base Housing put out a statement Tuesday urging the city and the school to convert the school into student housing.

Read more: Kingston’s vacancy rate rises to 3.2 %, matches provincial average

Tom Greening, executive director of the housing organization, says adding more student housing would be preferable to adding more academic space.

“More programing space means more students and more pressure on affordable housing in the city. Because of the number of Queen’s students paying $600 per bedroom, there isn’t any more affordable housing left in the city,” Greening said.

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Greening says low-income families in need of four-bedroom houses cannot compete with several students able to rent a home together for $2,400 a month.

Kingston’s rental vacancy rate has been dangerously low over the last several years, but bounced back during the pandemic. Still, home prices and rent prices have skyrocketed in Kingston over the last year.

The average price for a home in Kingston jumped to nearly $600,000 in May of this year from around $400,000 in June of last year, according to the Kingston Real Estate Association.

Click to play video: 'Final day for some students at KCVI in the Limestone City' Final day for some students at KCVI in the Limestone City
Final day for some students at KCVI in the Limestone City – Dec 11, 2020

Greening says the city has a crisis on its hands when it comes to affordable housing.

Home Base Housing believes Queen’s University’s student rental demands have something to do with that, pushing buyers to snatch up houses and pumping up rents for students only.

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Currently, to rent or own a house in the city, Pierre Klein, manager of operations with Home Base Housing, says you need a household income of at least $100,000.

“To rent you should not spend more than 30 per cent of your gross income but it is not uncommon to see people pushed to spending closer to 50 per cent,” Klein said.

Home Base Housing thinks Queen’s should be working harder to mitigate the housing issues it believes the school has caused in Kingston.

“Queen’s has not considered its effect on poor and hardworking Kingstonians as they have dramatically increased the number of students over the last two decades such that what once was affordable family housing has been converted into student rentals,” said Ed Smith, president of Home Base Housing’s board.

Read more: Kingston’s hot housing market not expected to cool any time soon

He also urged council to turn down any rezoning applications for the old school that is not student housing.

Queen’s has previously said it intends to redevelop the school for future academic use but in a statement, Donna Janiec, vice-president of finance and administration at Queen’s, says the use of the building has not be decided.

“As a participant on the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, Queen’s is aware that affordable housing is an issue for the near-campus community, as it is for many of its students. As part of an effort to respond to the demand for student housing, the university is currently building a new 334 bed student residence, which will be ready for occupancy next fall,” Janiec said.

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