Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands presided over a media event held in the hallway outside of Kingston City Council Chambers today, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, to announce a combined investment of over $50 million to support the construction of 130 units in Kingston, which includes a contribution of nearly $30 million by the Government of Canada.
According to Mayor Bryan Paterson, construction of the 130 units is already underway in two locations, 1316 and 1318 Princess Street, and those spaces will be filled by persons already on the City’s housing waiting lists.
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, Chief Executive Officer of Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation, and Kimberley Mansey-Walker, President of Kingston Co-operative Homes Inc., all made remarks and took some questions from the assembled media.
Gerretsen introduced Minister Hussen first, saying that Hussen was a dedicated colleague who always has time to talk about important projects in Kingston and follow up about how they are progressing, and calling him a “real champion” for the Kingston area.
After first acknowledging that the announcement was taking place on the traditional territories of many nations, including the Missisaguas, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat people, The Minister of Housing thanked the assembly and stated, “I always say that the federal government has a leadership role… but we can’t do it all. We need multiple leaders, provincial territorial leaders and leaders in the nonprofit and private sectors, to help us really meet or exceed our targets in the national housing strategy. And we’re all here because we all agree that each and every member of our community deserves and has a human right to a safe and affordable place to call home.”
He explained that the $30 million investment by the federal government will build 130 affordable residential units, spread across two separate projects, “and, as in any federal investment in housing, goes to projects that meet minimum affordability, accessibility, and energy efficiency standards.”
He thanked the assembled dignitaries for their “tireless dedication.”
He also pointed out that there is “good news coming… more money for co-ops. The first new money to build new co-ops in 30 years, $1.5 billion, will be launched for that soon, and then the Housing Accelerator fund, which is money that is going to go directly to municipalities to build additional housing supplies… I congratulate everyone that it’s involved. And thank you, Mark, for your leadership and your friendship, and your ability to always keep me focused on Kingston and the Islands.”
Mayor Paterson also stated the value of different governments and groups working together to combat the housing challenges currently faced by so many, calling the new builds “exciting” and “just critical because the need for more affordable housing is now. And so I’m delighted that we’ve already got the ball rolling, that construction is proceeding, and I can hardly wait until those moments we’re able to cut the ribbon and have residents move in.”
Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, CEO of Kingston and Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) stated, “KFHC is building one of the largest affordable housing projects in the area and for Kingston itself: a 92-unit 6-storey building, which will include a variety of units with that deep affordability that the city needs so desperately.”
She described these as 10 RGI (rent geared to income) units, 24 units of “affordable housing with rent at 60 per cent of average market rent,” 18 units of “80 per cent of the average market rent,” and “40 true market units.”
Kimberley Mansey-Walker, President of Kingston Co-operative Homes Inc., was last to speak.
“We are so pleased to add 38 new households to our cooperative through this expansion… The new apartment building that we’re adding will provide smaller, more accessible homes for many Kingstonians… As well, some of our existing members may choose to downsize into the new building, which would free up much-needed homes for younger families, allowing them to join our co-op,” she explained.
Her comments focussed not only on the funding, but on the different sense of community that housing co-ops provide their tenants: “These 38 homes will be secure, affordable, and part of a close-knit community, which is something that so many people are struggling to find. We couldn’t be more proud to be part of the solution [to the housing crisis].”
Canada’s National Housing Strategy has now been underway for five years. Last month, Canada’s Auditor General, Karen Hogan, tabled a critical report in which she said that, after spending billions of dollars, the federal government agencies responsible for administering those programs could not say whether the fight against homelessness was being effective. The Minister of Housing was asked what is being done to address the concerns in that report and better measure whether progress is actually being made.
“Obviously, we accept all the recommendations made by the Auditor General,” replied Hussen, “but what the Auditor General was particularly referring to was data, and she’s absolutely right.”
He explained, “We had launched a data strategy… With the 1,000 organizations and over 3,300 projects across the country that directly serve people experiencing homeless… to have them better collect, analyze, and report the data, and we put in place mechanisms to enable them to do that.”
However, he explained, the pandemic emergency took precedence over that data collection, “so the organizations got back to us and said, ‘look, we are under tremendous pressure and we are not able to collect the data the way you want at this time because we’re facing situations in which we have to help people’… So, we gave them a pause on that and allowed them to do the work that they were doing.”
Huasen stated, the data collection has been relaunched this fall, “and we hope that we’ll get better data.”
He also reported that, through Reaching Home (a community-based federal program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to designated communities), “we’ve prevented 64,000 Canadians from entering into homelessness, and allowed 32,000 Canadians to exit homelessness, through permanent housing solutions, through programs like the Rapid Housing Initiative, and programs through shelters and transitional housing. So the impact is being felt, we have a sense of the numbers that are being served… we just need to do a better job at collecting more by-name lists, as well as implementing coordinated access across the country.”