Kingston City Council approves funding allocations for housing, homelessness programs

Kingston city councillors vote on a funding allocation model to support housing and homelessness initiatives in the city. Screen captured image.

Kingston City Council has approved a funding allocation model which will see millions of dollars pumped into various housing and homelessness projects in the city, thanks to funding secured as part of three programs administered by the provincial government. As noted in a staff report distributed in advance of the Tuesday, May 16, 2023, council meeting, the City of Kingston is set to receive $5 million through the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) and the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI), which staff said “are intended to support the stabilization and maintenance of existing community housing assets and expanding the supply of the community housing stock.” 

While the two programs are geared towards homelessness and housing strategies, each fund comes with its own unique focus and set of eligibility criteria. The COCHI program, which includes a $1.39 million allocation in 2023-2024 and $1.86 million in 2024-2025, is meant to strengthen the City’s supply of “community housing assets.” 

In terms of where the City plans to spend the COCHI money, the staff report proposed the prioritization of repair and renovation-related projects for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 program years. “The [City of Kingston] will administer a proposal-based disbursement process utilizing available building condition assessments and long-term project viability which includes a commitment from the community housing provider to continue providing affordable housing in accordance with the program guidelines,” staff wrote.

Meanwhile, the OPHI program will be used to support projects geared toward the construction of new affordable housing units, such as the Kingston-Frontenac Renovates Program, which “provides financial assistance to low-income homeowner households to complete urgent repairs and accessibility enhancements.” The City of Kingston’s 2023 to 2025 OPHI funding total is $1,870,600. 

One specific project included in the staff report is $560,000 from the 2023-2024 OPHI affordable rental housing capital funding stream, which will be used to help Ryandale Transitional Housing acquire a new home. City Council previously approved $900,000 in funding for the project, with the remaining $340,000 coming from the City’s Housing and Homelessness Reserve. 

On top of the funding secured through COCHI and OPHI, the City will also receive $8.77 million from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s (MMAH) new Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) for the 2023 to 2024 fiscal year. According to the staff report, the money from HPP repents a 77 per cent increase over funding received in the last fiscal year. 

As for where the HPP funding will be directed, the City is set to spend $3.85 million on community outreach and support services, 70 per cent of which will be directed to Home Base Housing and the Salvation Army’s ‘Housing First’ and ‘Prevention/Diversion’ programs. Staff also recommended spending $150,000 on a new street outreach pilot program to be delivered by Addiction & Mental Health Services – Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (AMHS-KFLA) and the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Funding secured through HPP will also be used to support emergency shelter solutions, including $2 million for shelters such as the Concession Street and Adelaide Warming/Drop-in Centres. A further $1.29 million will be spent on operational funding for housing assistance and supportive housing projects, including support for a “head leasing initiative” led by Lionhearts Inc. 

During Tuesday night’s Council meeting, the report generated little debate. One point of concern was raised by Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo, who worried about the close proximity of the emergency shelter space on Concession Street to a newly-planned transitional housing facility which is also set for the street. 

In repose to Tozzo’s questions, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Lanie Hurdle, noted that the two services would not be in operation at the same time. “What we’re looking at with this extension is… ending the program at [the shelter] location by or before the end of 2024, at which time we expect that 206 Concession Street — which is more stabilization/transitional housing — will be operational,” she said.  

The funding model passed with unanimous support from Council. 

Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

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