Kingston City Council approves three affordable housing projects as part of Rapid Housing Initiative

Kingston City Council reviews a staff report recommending which affordable housing projects will be submitted as part of the City’s recent Rapid Housing Initiative allocation. Screen-captured image.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023, Kingston City Council approved three projects that will be put forward as part of the City’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) allotment. This past January, it was announced that the City of Kingston would receive $6,669,918 in funding through the federal program. Administered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the RHI, which is now in its third round, provides funding for long-term affordable housing projects through two distinct streams: the Cities Stream gives money directly to municipalities, while the Project Stream provides funding to select projects using a competitive applications-based process. 

After learning that the City was successful in its application for RHI Round Three funding, City of Kingston staff have spent the last several months identifying eligible projects to be submitted to CMHC for final approval. A report presented to councillors ahead of Tuesday’s meeting outlined three projects for submission, which would result in a total of 29 new affordable housing units in the city. 

“While the RHI Cities Stream has provided a direct allocation to the City of Kingston, individual project applications are required to access the funding. To develop project proposals, City staff established an inter-departmental working group. Prior to application submission, discussions with CMHC were conducted to confirm project eligibility and to strengthen the content of the applications,” the report stated. 

Of the three projects, the largest is an 18-bedroom, transitional housing and stabilization facility for Addiction & Mental Health Services – KFL&A (AMHS-KFLA). According to the report, AMHS-KFLA currently runs a transitional housing program in a leased building in the city, and the RHI funding would enable the organization to purchase a commercial site which will be renovated into a permanent location for the project.

“AMHS has indicated a commitment and [has] operating funding [available] to deliver the program within the renovated commercial building. It is anticipated the project could accommodate 18 bedrooms, each with independent three-piece bathrooms. Communal kitchen, dining, and amenity spaces will be provided in addition to administration and programming space,” noted the report. 

The total cost to purchase and renovate the yet-to-be-identified building comes with an estimated price tag of $5.67 million, of which $4.67 million would be provided through the City’s RHI allocation. Meanwhile, an additional $1 million will come from the City’s 2023 recommended affordable housing capital budget allocation.

The second project included in the report is a new tiny homes initiative to be built and operated by Habitat for Humanity Kingston Limestone Region. In 2021, Kingston City Council approved a plan for Habitat for Humanity to construct eight tiny homes at a property on Mccauley Street, which is currently owned by the City. According to the report, “updated capital budget requirements” for the tiny homes have led to an increased price tag for the project, with staff recommending $484,101 in RHI funding be allocated to the organization. 

The report noted that, since 2021, “complex design requirements associated with providing sanity services to the site,” have caused a delay in the design work for the project. Habitat for Humanity now anticipates a start date of spring 2023, which fits the timelines associated with RHI funding eligibility.

Staff’s final recommended project would see three two-bedroom affordable housing units constructed at 253 Yonge Street, which would be reserved for Indigenous households. Staff are still looking for an operator for the units, which would be built according to regulations in the provincial government’s Bill 23, which amends the planning act “to allow for up to three residential units as-of-right on land zoned for one residential building.”

In order to comply with RHI funding requirements, 25 per cent of the City’s funded units must be reserved for women, while an additional 15 per cent of the units must be held for Indigenous people. To meet these requirements, the AMHS-KFLA transitional housing project will include three units for women and two for Indigenous people. Meanwhile, the tiny home project on Mccauley Street includes a provision to house at least two women. 

When the report was brought forward for debate on Tuesday night, councillors were mostly concerned with the tiny home project on Mccauley Street. “Nowhere in the staff report did I see anything about seniors… I am very concerned about our vulnerable seniors not having any housing,” remarked Portsmouth District Councillor Don Amos, as he asked staff to further explain the intentions of the tiny home project, in light of the need for housing units for vulnerable seniors. 

Ruth Noordegraaf (centre), the City’s Director of Housing and Social Services responded to a councillor’s question. Screen-captured image.

“There is a need for a wide variety of housing solutions, including [for] lower-income seniors. We have been and continue to work with Habitat for Humanity, who will be operating these eight units… There are two funding commitments, one is the Rapid Housing contribution which does have very specific expectations, [but] it does not have specific expectations around seniors,” noted Ruth Noordegraaf, the City’s Director of Housing and Social Services. 

Noordegraaf went on to add that the City can impose additional requirements on the project through a “municipal agreement” with Habitat for Humanity. “There are eight units, two of [which] are accessible. The size of the units is fairly small and we have [had] conversations with Habitat for Humanity… they are actually very interested… [in] allocat[ing] units for the senior population,” added the director. 

Further comments regarding the tiny homes project came from Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo, who addressed the “high concentration” of social housing units already in the area — an area slated for more diversity in housing through the Rideau Heights Regeneration Plan, which began in 2015.

“The intent is to really diversify the housing stock in the neighbourhood… That means we have a high-concentration of social housing units in the neighbourhood, [and] gradually we are working on diversifying that stock,” Noordegraaf responded. 

After a very brief round of questions, the report passed by a unanimous vote from councillors. On top of the three recommended projects, Council also approved a motion to spend $1 million from the 2023 affordable housing capital budget allocation to cover the additional costs associated with the AMHS-KFLA transitional housing project.

With the recommendations now approved by City Council, the projects will now be put forward to CMHC, with final approval expected sometime this May. Approved projects are expected to be completed within 18 months, which means units will need to be occupied by November 2024. 

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