City Council to discuss allocation of $7mill+ in ‘Rapid Housing Funding’

113 Lower Union Street (left) and the former Fairfield Manor West building on Ridley Court (right) are two of the three options being presented to Kingston City Council as possible projects for the allocation of the recently-announced Rapid Housing Funding from the federal government. Kingston City Staff note in the report going before Council that more projects may be added before the applications are submitted to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for approval. Photos by Cris Vilela.

Just two weeks ago, the City of Kingston was awarded $7,418,328 through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI).

By the end of this month, the City must have all project applications for the use of that funding submitted to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHA).

As such, City Staff will bring forward a report to Kingston City Council at their coming meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, with regard to allocating those funds.

When the funding was announced, Mayor Bryan Paterson explained that it could be used for new projects, existing projects, or a mix of both.

“That, I think, is what I appreciate most about the funding that we received is that there is that flexibility. And this is an important point. I mean, I think, as cities, you know, we’re always asking for greater autonomy and flexibility to make the decisions that work best for us,” Paterson said on Monday, Jul. 26, 2021.

“[The funding] could go city projects, but [it] can go to community projects, as well. So it gives us a greater lens to be able to look at the affordable housing situation, which is really important. At the end of the day, we, the City, can’t do this alone. There’s a lot of other great community partners and nonprofits that are working in this in this same direction. And so be able to work as a community toward the same goals is really great.”

When asked about the stipulations connected to the funding with regard to its use, Paterson said he didn’t have all of the specifics in front of him.

“I’m hesitant to give you those details, because I just don’t think that I have all that criteria. But what I can say is, I think, a couple things, number one, it certainly… the funds can be divided across different projects,” Paterson said. “And then two, I think it’s the timing that really… the federal government wants occupancy, like, within a year, so there’s a very quick timeline. So obviously, that’s going to be part of the work at our end – understanding not only what projects are our possibilities, but being sure that we can we can get [the project(s)] completed in that amount of time, because some projects obviously going to take more time.”

However, those stipulations are included in the report to Council, which comes from the office of City CAO Lanie Hurdle, supported by Ruth Noordegraaf, Director of Housing and Social Services.

“This funding will only be allocated if the City can submit projects that meet all of the CMHC criteria. City staff must respond quickly to submit these project applications by August 31, 2021 and eligible projects must reach occupancy within 12 months of signing an agreement,” the executive summary of the report reads.

“The RHI program has specific criteria related to target tenant population, affordable rent level, and project type. City staff have identified concerns with criteria and the unlikelihood that any new construction, especially multi-residential, could meet the required timeframe.”

The report goes on to detail that the City’s allocation of the RHI funding is required to create a minimum of 28 “new affordable units, and funded units must be affordable for a minimum 20-year period.” The City is able to appoint “intermediary organizations” to operating the units, however, “the City is responsible for the project meeting the program requirements for the 20-year term, including financial viability.”

The report then lists the following as “an overview of the key criteria for projects to be assisted through” the funds:

  • Funded projects must support the creation of new permanent affordable housing units including standard rental housing, transitional, permanent supportive housing, single room occupancies, and seniors housing.
  • Eligible projects include the construction of new rental housing, the conversion/rehabilitation of a non-residential building to affordable housing, and the acquisition of an existing residential building in a state of disrepair or abandoned for the purpose of rehabilitation to a habitable condition.
  • Projects must intend to serve households and/or individuals who would otherwise be in severe housing need (i.e. paying more than 50 per cent of their gross income on housing costs) or people experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.
  • Tenants of funded units/beds must pay rent of no more than 30 per cent of gross income or the shelter subsidy component for social assistance recipients.
  • New construction projects must provide for accessible units 5 per cent beyond the building code’s minimum requirement.
  • New construction projects must be 5 per cent above energy efficiency standards.
  • Property acquisitions that require the evictions of tenants are not eligible for funding.
  • Projects must have a minimum of five units (or beds in congregate living settings).
  • Projects must provide permanent housing (i.e. tenancies longer than three months).
  • Funded projects must be able to advance quickly and be available for occupancy within 12 months of agreement signing.
  • The minimum affordability period for a project is 20 years.

According to the report, due to the time constraints associated with submitting project applications, “Staff would report back to Council in the Fall of 2021 outlining the project application submissions.” This would occur after the applications had already been submitted.

Further, the report states that City Staff “have formed an interdepartmental team to facilitate project management, procurement, development approvals, real estate, and construction and design if required” in order to “expedite the project identification and development review process.”

The report provides a brief outline of three potential projects being considered at this time, but notes that “City staff are continuing to meet with non-profit housing providers to explore additional projects that meet CMHC criteria. Staff are also exploring opportunities to acquire potential real estate, which would be the subject of a further report to Council.”

The three potential projects being considered are:

113 Lower Union

An already-existing project – and, at one point, the home of Kingston Youth Shelter during the pandemic – the report states that the funding would be used for “renovations costs associated with 19-bedroom congregate living facility providing affordable, supportive housing to Indigenous community members,” with “rents to be set at social assistance shelter allowance.”

805 Ridley Drive

A site already owned by the City, this location – the former home of Fairfield Manor West – had been used by the City as a self-isolation centre near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for residents without a place to isolate. It, too, became the site of the Kingston Youth Shelter after that shelter was moved during the pandemic.

The report states that this project would include “potential renovation costs associated with up to 18 units in the East Wing facility; units to be converted to self-contained suites,” with “rents to be established at social assistance shelter allowance or 30 per cent of tenant’s gross income.”

1 Curtis Crescent

A currently vacant parcel of land in central Kingston, this property is already considered “social housing lands,” according to the report, which states the project would include the “construction of a nine-unit infill project.” In terms of affordability, the report states that for this project, rents are “to be established at social assistance shelter allowance or 30 per cent of tenant’s gross income.”

It is of note that the 113 Lower Union project has already applied for RHI through the federal government unsuccessfully.

“The RHI was part of the federal government’s plan to support economic recovery and create new affordable housing. The City of Kingston did not receive a funding allocation under the Cities Stream. A Project Stream application submitted by City staff to support renovation work at 113 Lower Union Street was unsuccessful. It is understood the total request for funding under the Project Stream was significantly more than the program budget,” the report states.

On Tuesday, Councillors will be presented with the following recommendations as part of the report:

  • That Council authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to enter into an agreement with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to receive Kingston’s allocation under the Rapid Housing Initiative’s Cities Stream for the creation of new affordable housing units; and
  • That Council provide direction to City staff to report back to Council in the Fall of 2021 confirming the projects that have been submitted for review and approval by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for funding available under the Rapid Housing Initiative Cities Stream allocation; and
  • That Council authorize the Chief Administrative Officer or his/her delegate to review and approve all documents and agreements related to Rapid Housing Initiative outlined in Report Number 21-212; and
  • That Council authorize the Mayor and Clerk to execute all documents and agreements related to the Rapid Housing Initiative outlined in Report Number 21-212, in a form satisfactory to the Director of Legal Services.

Full details on the upcoming City Council meeting (Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021), including a link to watch the meeting live online, are available here.

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