City Matters – February 28, 2020 Issue
Kingston's Recognition Statement provides the guiding motto for City Matters: "Let us bring our good minds and hearts together."
Mayor's Task Force on Housing releases report
"Kingston has a housing affordability crisis which must be addressed by increasing supply."
This line, from the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Report, neatly sums up what anyone looking to rent or buy a home in Kingston already knows. While Kingston's rental vacancy rate recently increased to 1.9 per cent, it still falls short of the healthy 3 per cent mark – and it does not speak to last year's 7.9 per cent increase in average Kingston rents.
"These recommendations come at an important juncture. The housing landscape is rapidly evolving and we have an opportunity to implement strategies that are innovative, practical, and will ensure we maintain healthy housing levels into the future. I look forward to carefully examining these recommendations and incorporating them into our city-wide practices," says Mayor Bryan Paterson.
The report is now posted online as part of the March 3 City Council meeting agenda, where it is to be presented by Task Force Co-Chairs, Ted Hsu and Councillor Mary Rita Holland (see the Mayor's Task Force page for mandate and membership details). Titled, A Foundation for the Public Good: Recommendations to Increase Kingston's Housing Supply for All, the report reflects more than a year's worth of work by the Task Force, which has identified recommendations that:
- Address barriers to developing the housing supply.
- Offer tools and incentives to stimulate investment in housing supply.
- Can be applied city-wide.
- Encourage an increase in a diverse range of housing.
- Complement the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.
- Have benefitted from community consultations, stakeholder submissions and briefings and studies.
As noted in the report: "There are many moving parts to housing policy. There is no single factor which is the cause of Kingston's housing situation, and no single place where there is a chance to do something about it."
The Task Force's wide-ranging 40+ recommendations are grouped into the following themes in the report:
- Partners in Building Affordable Housing
- A Housing Culture
- Housing Initiatives for Indigenous People
- Regulations to Help Supply Housing
- Incentives to Build and Subsidies to Afford
- Quantitative Knowledge of the Housing Market and the Quantity of Housing
- Quality and Sustainability
Plan to watch Council's Tuesday, March 3 meeting for its discussion of the Task Force's report (tune in starting at 7 p.m. – it's live streamed).
City housing programs help make homes more affordable
Residents of Kingston and Frontenac County can take advantage of the City's Home Ownership or Kingston-Frontenac Renovates programs to improve their housing situation.
"These programs are aimed at making housing more affordable so that residents of the City and the County of Frontenac can achieve home ownership – and/or make upgrades that will help them stay in the homes they love," says Mitchell Grange, Acting Manager, Housing and Early Years.
Increasing housing affordability is one of Council's strategic priorities.
Homeownership Program: Down-payment assistance
The Home Ownership Program helps Kingston and County of Frontenac renters with low-to-moderate incomes purchase a home by offering down payment assistance up to a maximum of 10 per cent off the purchase price. Six households were able to buy homes through this program in 2018. See the Homeownership Program eligibility criteria and apply from March 2 to 16 (first-come, first-served).
Kingston-Frontenac Renovates: Home repair assistance
The Kingston Frontenac Renovates program offers low-to-moderate income households up to $10,000 for emergency repairs and up to $5,000 for renovations that make their home accessible. In 2018, the program helped 25 households in Kingston and Frontenac County. Eligible repairs may include, but are not limited to, furnace or window replacement, roof repair and accessibility ramp or lift installations. See the Kingston-Frontenac Renovates eligibility criteria and apply starting March 2 (first-come, first-served).
Changes to fees to encourage housing development
Increasing housing affordability is one of Council's five strategic priorities for 2019-2022. "Considering development-related fee exemptions or reductions for affordable housing units" is one of the efforts outlined under this priority.
Development charges and related fees are imposed on builders by the City to help fund the infrastructure needed to support future development.
"The idea here is to use changes to development charges to encourage more residential housing units with a range of affordability to be built more quickly. If you are creating affordable housing, or a project with an affordable housing component, your fees will be reduced or eliminated," says Andrea Gummo, Acting Manager Policy Planning.
Changes to the City's development-related fees to help encourage builders to increase the housing supply:
- Development charges were reduced effective September 2019 for all residential developments within Kingston (see Report 19-222).
- Affordable housing projects are now exempt from planning fees (see Report 20-025).
This means that all planning fees will be waived for not-for-profit housing providers that submit development proposals which include affordable units. All planning fees will be waived for private affordable housing development units at 80 per cent or less of Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's rental rate. This waiving of fees will apply to the rental market only. If a development includes a number of affordable units, the planning fees will be reduced based on the percentage of affordable units included within the overall development.
- Provincial changes to the Development Charges Act under Bill 108 – More Homes, More Choice Act – are aimed at encouraging increased construction of housing (Report 20-072). Effective Jan. 1, 2020, three development types are eligible to pay development charges on an installment basis. For rental housing and institutional developments, development charges are payable over a five-year term, in six equal annual installments. For non-profit housing developments, development charges are payable over a 20-year term, in 21 equal annual installments.
"Our policies must support our priorities," says Gummo. "That's why we worked quickly to bring in these changes."
City certified as Living Wage Employer
Last month, the City was officially certified as a Living Wage Employer at the supporter level by the Ontario Living Wage Network.
"Every full-time worker in Kingston should be able to live off their earnings" said Mayor Bryan Paterson. "Our full-time employees have earned a living wage for some time, but we pursued certification so that we could demonstrate our leadership as a significant employer locally while also calling attention to this vital quality-of-life measure."
The City sought this certification as a way to encourage its contractors, partners and community organizations and businesses to also pay a living wage. It is now considering options for including living wage criteria in its procurement process.
The living wage is the hourly rate a household must earn to meet its basic needs. In Kingston, this wage was calculated to be $17.57 per hour in November 2019.
John Counter Boulevard bridge update
See a video update on this bridge being built over the rail tracks.
2019 Annual Report shows City’s progress on priorities
The 2019 Annual Report highlights the City of Kingston's progress on the 28 goals aimed at advancing Council's 2019-2022 strategic priorities. It offers updates on these efforts along with 15 key stories and 33 infographics to provide an overview of the City's work.
"I am proud of the progress that we have made so far, and I look forward to the challenges ahead as we continue to work together to grow our community," says Lanie Hurdle, the City's Chief Administrative Officer. The stories featuring 2019 work in the five strategic-priority areas include:
Demonstrating leadership on climate action:
- New Community Centre to be near "Net-Zero"
- Working Group on Climate Action identifies quick wins in ICI sector
- Developing a strategy to address Kingston's climate emergency
Increasing housing affordability:
- Planning to pursue intensification
- City and KFHC open new affordable housing at 645 Brock St.
- Vacancy rate increases
- City to provide up to $18 million for 90 affordable units
- Mayor's Task Force on Housing starts its work
Improving walkability, roads and transportation:
- 2019 Road Improvement Projects map
- Implementing the Active Transportation Master Plan
- Launching Safe Routes to School Program
Strengthening economic opportunities:
- Promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace
- Attracting talent
Fostering healthy citizens and vibrant spaces:
- Beautifying Kingston's waterfronts – and shoring them up
- Working toward reconciliation in Kingston
See what the City has helped accomplish for our community in the 2019 Annual Report. Progress on Council's 2019-2022 strategic priorities is also regularly tracked at CityofKingston.ca/apps/councilpriorities/.
City creates new Climate Leadership Division
City Council declared a climate emergency last year and has made demonstrating leadership on climate action one of its five strategic priorities.
The City's new Climate Leadership Division was created last month to focus on leading and supporting a number of climate actions identified by Council in its Strategic Plan. The division was created by reallocating existing, budgeted staff positions in the corporation and reports to the Commissioner of Business, Environment & Projects.
The projects the Climate Leadership Division is leading and supporting include:
- the introduction of a Home Energy Retrofit Program to help residents reduce their home's carbon footprint,
- the development of a community climate change fund,
- the City's Electric Vehicle Strategy,
- implementing energy retrofit projects in City buildings,
- the creation of a net-zero new build policy, and
- the Climate Leadership Plan.
These projects, among others throughout the corporation of the City of Kingston, work toward achieving Council's goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the City's operations and in the community by 15 per cent by 2022.
Plan To Engage On The Climate Leadership Plan
This last item in the list above, the Climate Leadership Plan, will act as a corporate and community climate change management strategy and will help inform how we can all reduce carbon emissions. The development of the Climate Leadership Plan includes extensive public engagement that will begin in early spring 2020. Details on the public engagement will be posted on the City's Get Involved platform in early spring.
Can you reduce your GHGs by 15 per cent? See the graphic at CityofKingston.ca/Change-for-Climate, which outlines the City's current climate actions, and plan to make your own changes to reduce climate-changing GHG.
Make your 2020 Tim Hortons Brier plans!
Put some Spring in your Sunday
The City's greenhouse is open for free visits from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays through March 8. Come to 111 Norman Rogers Dr. to smell the fragrant air and enjoy the colourful daffodils, orchids, tulips and hyacinths.
Blocked sewer line?
Utilities Kingston reminds you to call Ontario One Call at 1-800-400-2255 for a free sewer safety inspection ahead of attempting to clear a blocked sewer line. Attempts to clear a sewer line could put you at risk of damaging a gas line known as a cross bore. Motorized or water jetting equipment (i.e. augers or electric sewer snakes) can cause gas leaks if they run into a sewer cross bore. Call for a free sewer safety inspection before you or a plumber use this equipment.