One of two information reports on housing as part of the agenda for their next meeting, Kingston City Council will receive a 12-page “analysis” of local development over the past three years.
The report is co-authored by Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Growth and Development Services for the City of Kingston, and Jennifer Campbell, the City’s Commissioner of Community Services, and is the result of a Council directive back in May 2023, which was brought forward as a new motion by King’s Town District Councillor Gregory Ridge. The report is intended to look at development in Kingston in terms of applications received by the City and the percentage of them that have been approved, denied, or appealed – and, more specifically, how those processes and the delays within them impact “precarious housing, homelessness, and vacancy rates.”
Ridge’s motion noted that the City of Kingston has experienced a “[Seven per cent] growth in the most recent census from Statistics Canada,” with just a 1.2 per cent vacancy rate in 2022.” He highlighted recent housing debates at Council as his impetus for drafting the motion.
“As Council, we hear a lot of delegations and testimonials that are qualitative, but we don’t have quantitative information to… give us a broader perspective in terms of the background that we’ve been experiencing over the last several years,” Ridge said at the Council meeting on Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
The report, which was to have been delivered to Council in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023, was requested to include:
- The number of planning applications submitted in the last three years
- The number of units approved
- The number of affordable housing units
- The number of units appealed
- Development charges and taxes associated with all units
It is important to note that the data provided in the report only extends to May 31, 2023, and not the entirety of the calendar year.
Nearly eight months later, the analysis is ready for councillors to review. The report notes that throughout the 3.5-year period in question, the City of Kingston received 89 development applications, “which sought to create 8,997 new residential units.” However, despite receiving applications for nearly 9,000 new housing units over 3.5 years, just 2,258 new units were granted approval by the City’s planning department — just a hair over 25 per cent of the total applications received.
It should be noted the analysis only pertains to applications submitted between Jan. 1, 2020 and May 31, 2023, and does not include approvals granted for applications submitted before 2020. Staff also note the data within the report does not reflect the 2,600 new units approved since May 31, 2023, “bringing the total approved units to 4,858 in relation to the planning applications submitted within this time frame.”
According to the report, of the 8,997 units proposed across the three-year time frame, 2,258 approvals were issued (representing just over 25 per cent approval of the proposed units); however, after 764 unit approvals were appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), staff were able to issue just 1,410 building permits by May 31, 2023 (representing 15.67 per cent of of the proposed units). Of the three years studied, 2,246 unit proposals were submitted in 2020, of which staff were able to issue building permits for 1,136 — or 50.58 per cent of the units proposed. The report notes this was due to 271 appeals.
The busiest year in terms of the number of applications submitted was 2021, in which staff received submissions for 4,144 proposed residential units. By May 31, 2023, staff had approved just 755 (18.22 per cent) of those units, as appeals reduced the number of building permits issued to just 73. Meanwhile, 2022 was the lightest year in terms of the total number of units proposed: staff received submissions for 2,138 residential units, of which 269 (12.58 per cent) were approved, as staff were able to issue 201 building permits by May 31, 2023.
With the analysis only covering a 3.5-year period, staff add that a total of 6,446 planning approvals were granted between Jan. 1, 2020, and May 31, 2023, which includes 4,188 units submitted prior to 2020. Of the total number of approvals granted during the time frame, staff were able to issue 4,362 building permits, as an additional 1,608 units have been granted the relevant zoning bylaw amendments “but require a final approval in the form of Site Plan Control or final plan of subdivision prior to being eligible for Building Permits,” staff write.
The report also includes information on the number of proposed units appealed to the OLT, with staff noting that over the 3.5 years, “17 applications proposing a total of 3,191 new residential units” were appealed. Of the appeals, 784 came from third parties, while the vast majority were a result of “refusal by the City.” The report goes on to note that of the 17 development applications appealed to the OLT, 16 have been resolved, “totalling 1,521 units.” Meanwhile, one application which proposed 95 new residential units was refused by the OLT.
As for the potential economic impact the new units could generate through development charges and property taxes, the report notes the 2,258 units approved between Jan. 1, 2020 and May 31, 2023 have already brought in $12.3 million dollars in development charges, with an additional $21.8 million expected for the municipality. Meanwhile, the approved units are expected to generate approximately $6.2 million annually in property taxes.
When councillors ordered the development analysis last year, members also directed staff to provide information on housing and homelessness projects in the city. The report notes that 97 new units were created during the 3.5-year window, across nine separate projects. During this time, the City also supported 237 new affordable and transitional housing units.
Staff were also asked to consider how delays in the development approval process are impacting precarious housing, homelessness, and the residential vacancy rate within the city. In the report, staff note that Kingston continues to have one of the lowest vacancy rates in the province, “driven by improved labour conditions.” However, the report does not provide an estimate of the overall impact of development delays on the city’s vacancy rate.
As for the impact of new housing construction on existing market rental rates, the report notes that units built after 2015 had, on average, rents that were 140 per cent of the rent of “similar sized” units built before 2025. With new units often subject to a nearly 40 per cent “premium,” the report suggests “the benefit of new construction on housing affordability is muted.”
In terms of how delayed projects have affected those who are precariously housed or experiencing homelessness, staff write, “None of the projects currently under appeal are projects that include mandates to house vulnerable or homeless community members.” The report goes on to add, “In recent history, no non-profit supportive housing, transitional housing, or emergency shelter facilities have been the subject of land use planning approval appeals.”
As an information report, the analysis provides key insights into the local housing supply and planning approvals process, but the document does not contain any official recommendations from staff. Councillors will likely use the report to inform future decisions on housing.
The report will be presented to Council during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers. Full meeting agendas are available on the City of Kingston website. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.