Opinion: Support of Davis Tannery redevelopment during housing crisis

Editorial note: The following is a submitted Op/Ed article. The author’s assertion that the units of the proposed development will be “affordable housing” is not currently reflected in the proposal documents. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.


Kingston is facing a housing crisis. To put it simply, there are not enough places to live.

The City of Kingston reported just this past February that our vacancy rate was 1.4 per cent. Not only does this mean that the people who were born here can’t find a place to live, but it also means that the people who want to move here will just choose another destination. 

To give that a little perspective, Toronto – the most populous city in Canada – had a vacancy rate of 4.6 per cent. We all know that when you have low supply and high demand, the price goes up. According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the median rent for a one bedroom apartment in Kingston for 2021 was $1,150, while Toronto had a median rent of $1,445. It’s hard to believe that, despite Toronto having roughly 21 times our population and also being one of the most expensive and in demand cities in the world to live in, Kingston’s median rent is just $295 away from Toronto’s.

Housing effects our local economy in a multitude of ways, the first being it acts as a barrier for many people seeking employment in Kingston. Every house that isn’t built in Kingston is yet another family doctor who chooses to set up their practice elsewhere, delivering yet another blow to our already broken health care systems in the municipality.

Of course, it is no secret that many of the jobs here are seasonal or service based. This means that those people who do choose to work in Kingston are often met with wages that do not usually keep up with any increases to the cost of living. It is therefore paramount that Kingston focuses on dedicating far more urgency towards consideration and approval of housing project proposals. We must act now to ensure the housing supply is dramatically increased at a consistent pace.

The tannery is a long abandoned property. It is in poor environmental shape from decades of neglect due to tannery operations, and continues to further deteriorate due to inaction from those who would rather choose to do nothing and leave the property as is. Right here and now, we have a critical opportunity for not only redevelopment of the property into 1,500 affordable living spaces, but also a cleaning up of contaminated waste and soil. 

A rendering of the development proposed by Jay Patry Inc. for the site of the former Davis Tannery, as it would be seen from the water. Rendering via the City of Kingston.

There are groups opposing this project who will say that this project is destroying green space, and my rebuttal to that is simple: Have you been to the local public parks? Walked the trails? By opposing this project you are further destroying human lives to save the very trees the unsheltered sleep under. I am saddened for so many people that you would place their lives below polluted, contaminated land from the comfort of your own home. 

It is for these reasons that I, in no uncertain terms, support Jay Patry’s proposal to redevelop the site of the former tannery. 

Byron Emmons
Kingston resident


Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

5 thoughts on “Opinion: Support of Davis Tannery redevelopment during housing crisis

  • I am for them to develop this property get some use out of it

  • Patry and other developers have long sought an approval to build major residential projects along the Cataraqui River. If they want to build residential and commercial units, they could do it under the new Kingston Zoning Bylaw, (2022-62), and, since April of 2013, when it was previously proposed, (under Bylaw 8499). Nothing is stopping them. However, their current proposal is to build 1,500 residential units in an area, (designated as “Environmental Protection Area,” under the City’s current Official Plan, Schedule 3A Land Use), that only allows 790 residential units.

    Also, when Byron Emmons campaigned for councillor in the 2018 municipal election, he did not attend two all-candidates meetings conducted by the Coalition of Kingston Communities and by the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. He said he refused to attend any events sponsored by “special interest groups.” On the other hand, Emmons obtained campaign donations from people with ties to developers and rental companies, including the Springer Group, Homestead, Tamarack, CaraCo, the BPE Group of Companies, and the MacKinnon Development Corporation, (many, coincidentally, also contributed to Taylor Pearce’s campaign, in like amounts). No “special interest groups” there? I was curious as to why many election signs for Emmons appeared on their properties and in vacant storefronts.

    https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/30794742/2018Election_Financials_Emmons-Byron.pdf

    https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/30794742/2018Election_Financials_Pearce-Taylor.pdf

    While Emmons may genuinely think Patry’s housing project will solve Kingston’s low vacancy rate, I’d point out that the “inaction from those who would rather choose to do nothing and leave the property as is” has been Patry’s fault, (not the City Council, nor protesters against this project). Patry has chosen to pursue a re-zoning for 1,500 units, since 2013, and has left the property “as is.” This isn’t about the lack of affordable housing, nor low vacancy rates; it’s about more profits for a developer, (than the zoning has allowed)!

  • The tannery site is not degrading further. It is actually slowly improving via a natural process called bioremediation where plants ‘clean up’ the toxic chemicals by absorbing them.
    Also, these housing units will be far from affordable for the average employee.

  • Clearly this gentleman did little research in writing his opinion piece. If he had he would realize that very few of those 1500 units would actually be “affordable housing” 500 are already set to be Condominiums the other 1000 will be rentals. But I can almost guarantee you less then 200 of them will be “affordable”.

    I’m not even going to get into the damage that will be done to important wetlands and breeding grounds for endangered turtle populations of which more than 100 have been spotted on this land…

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