At a meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023, Kingston city councillors will debate two staff reports regarding affordable housing in the City, including a new project at 805 Ridley Drive. In 2020, the City of Kingston purchased a former retirement home (Fairfield Manor West) in the city’s west end as part of its “local pandemic emergency housing response.” In 2022, the east wing of the building was renovated to build 12 apartment units which are now operated by Dawn House Services and Housing for Women Inc. (Dawn House).
Now, City staff are putting forward a recommendation to create a 17-bedroom transitional housing and congregate living facility in the building’s west wing, which would also be operated by Dawn House. In order to fund the project, staff have applied for and received $2.7 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative. “The funding program requires that the affordable housing be maintained for a minimum 20-year period,” notes a staff report circulating in advance of Tuesday’s meeting. The $2.7 million in funding would fully cover the capital costs associated with the project.
The staff report proposes “that rents be set at social assistance maximum shelter allowance to provide deep affordability for social assistance recipients. To complement the completed east wing, the renovated west wing is intended to provide transitional housing to homeless or vulnerably housed women.”
The report goes on to state that funding for the project comes with a rather tight timeline: Council’s approval and a formal funding agreement are needed by March 31, 2023. Once an official funding commitment is in place, staff will then work with Dawn House to develop an operating budget for the facility.
According to City staff, the west wing of the building is currently configured as it was when the City purchased the property back in 2020, “providing 17 bedrooms, each with independent three-piece bathrooms. Communal kitchen facilities and amenity areas are [also] available.” Throughout the winter, Dawn House has used the bedrooms to provide interim housing for homeless women. “City staff and Dawn House are working collaboratively on securing a permanent location for the women’s emergency housing and together will ensure support for women currently residing in this space is provided as needed prior to construction commencing,” the report adds.
During Tuesday’s meeting, councillors will be asked to approve the allocation of $2.7 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to support the west wing redevelopment. The report also recommends that Council direct staff to amend the current lease agreement with Dawn House to include the new 17-bedroom transitional housing facility at the site.
Sleeping cabins set to return to Centre 70 this spring
Besides the new transitional housing development at 805 Ridley Drive, Tuesday night’s Council meeting includes another important housing matter, as members receive a staff report outlining the seasonal transition plan for the City’s sleeping cabin project. As was the case in 2022, staff are recommending the sleeping cabin pilot project, currently located at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour [POH], be relocated to Centre 70 for the spring and summer months of 2023.
The program, operated by Our Livable Solutions (OLS), started out with 10 cabins at POH in January 2022 and then expanded to 15. At a meeting on June 29, 2022, councillors approved a motion to acquire an additional 10 sleeping cabins, with the goal of expanding the program to 20 in total. However, the report notes that the current POH site cannot accommodate 20 cabins, with staff opting to add five new cabins to the project in the fall of 2022, with an additional five ordered for future delivery.
A fire at POH in December 2022 reduced the number of cabins at the site from 15 to 12.
Staff need to move all cabins from POH when the marina’s spring/summer season gets underway this April; once the cabins are moved to Centre 70 in April, City staff note that an additional five cabins will be added to the program, bringing the total number of sleeping cabins to 17.
The report also indicates that staff are continuing to review plans for a permanent site for the sleeping cabins program. In August 2022, City Council voted to begin public consultations regarding a permanent location for the cabins at Rideau Marina in Kingston’s east end. The move came after Homestead Land Holdings offered to lease the property to the City for $1 per year. “Staff are continuing work on a longer-term location as directed and will return to Council with additional information related to location(s) in later 2023,” the report states.
Unless a plan for a permanent location is in place by fall 2023, staff are recommending the cabins return to POH for another fall and winter season. The report goes on to note that it is unlikely all 17 cabins would be able to be accommodated at the POH site; however, staff will work with OLS to “limit disruptions,” while ensuring no clients are displaced by the return to POH.
In terms of the costs associated with the project, City Council has already approved $128,000 in operational funding through April 2023. The report also states that the costs to run the sleeping cabin project through 2023 have been included in the operating budget, meaning no additional funds are required at this time.
The meeting of City Council begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall. Meetings are open to the public, and can be streamed live (or viewed afterward) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.