The City of Kitchener City Council votes on implementing Inclusionary Zoning Monday September 28 2020. Get the agenda here.
Are you concerned with KW’s soaring real estate prices and your quality of life? Or have you become apathetic to it all? To quote a DTK neighbour they “downgraded” moving from Toronto, therefore it’s only natural for Kitchener residents to be displaced for housing as well.
Now Kitchener-Waterloo, like Toronto, is suffering from a housing crisis and City Council is voting on a small step in preventing a Toronto size crisis; Inclusionary Zoning.
What is Inclusionary Zoning (IZ)?
IZ is a new approach to large scale developments. New condo or rental buildings would have a small selection of units that are deemed “affordable.” Usually 10% of the building.
The Current Dilemma
The graphic below captures income percentiles (income brackets) in the Region of Waterloo. If starter condos start at $400,000 that means that only the top earners in the City of Kitchener can afford it. You need to have a household income over $100,000 according to this report. That’s not saying you cannot buy it, but it isn’t affordable and you may be overextending yourself to purchase it.
According to the report, they recommend only applying Inclusionary Zoning in the green zones near LRT stops (Major Transit Station Areas). Throughout the report they do not recommend having any impact on the current real estate market. Some people might love that, but I find that worrisome and avoiding the whole point to solving our housing crisis. Let IZ apply to the Region of Waterloo as a whole, or at least at every MTSA. The housing market should be available to anyone, not just the rich. As well as, our market is currently seen as unstable because it’s rising too quickly, everyone I know is asking, “when will it crash?” Let’s prevent a burst, and help slightly cool an unattainable real estate market and allow wages to catch up.
The report, found here starting at page 73, has a few red flags. To begin with they have not set the affordable benchmark within reach of a full time minimal wage worker. As I discussed on the Falling Back into Rhythm article, we need to have safe affordable housing start at $700/month. If we want to relieve the stress off of subsidy and make more room available for homeless we need to incentivize working and being able to afford a safe space for a full time minimum wage worker.
The next major red flag is their recommendation to slowly implement IZ. According to the presentation from the Social Development Centre for Waterloo Region, we need 9,300 units of affordable housing. Today. Right now. The report for the City of Kitchener, their conclusion is that there is the potential for up to 1,500 units in the long term if you follow their recommendations. What exactly is long term? 10 years? 15 years? 20 years?
What is the point of IZ? Is this for our grandchildren or the first step in finding a solution right now? Does it not take two years for the average building to get through the Planning Department? How long does it take to build afterwards? Another two years? Are we blowing smoke or actually trying to create a safe City of Kitchener? If City Council accepts the report as is, it’s a promise of nothing. We need buildings that are currently not presold to have Inclusionary Zoning. Anything that breaks soils after January 2021 should have IZ.
If we accept this, shame on us. We cry and complain about crime, mental health and addictions but we need to help solve it at the root cause. Everyone deserves a safe shelter to call home and people who work should be able to pay for it. It is time to create a better, more safe Kitchener. We need IZ, we need it now and let’s make better targets while we’re discussing it. Let us reach for 1,500 units by the end of 2021, that’s less than 16% of what we currently need.
Your Ward Councilor votes on IZ this on Monday. Find their email here and send them a line or two on what you would like to see. Ask them to consider what these recommendations will actually look like. Seek to find a solution that makes Kitchener better.
Update – 7pm September 28 2020
Post PSI Meeting regarding IZ
Council votes unopposed for moving forward with IZ as proposed, with the notes that they want all MTSA to be evaluated by the city and with the plan to lobby the province to make it city wide instead of small sections of the city.
It hardly feels like a win, everyone seems positive with moving IZ forward but there is no sense of urgency, no sense that this is only going to get worse and how do we fix today? In the meantime, how do people survive to see any change implemented?
– Kelly-Ann Callaghan