Kingston City staff to examine planning applications process, impact on homelessness

King’s Town District Councillor Gregory Ridge speaks to a new motion he brought forward during a meeting of Kingston City Council on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Screen captured image.

At a meeting on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Kingston City Council voted to direct staff to prepare a “development analysis” related to planning applications submitted to the City and to the impact planning approval delays have on Kingston’s homeless population. As part of a new motion, moved by King’s Town District Councillor Gregory Ridge, the report will examine “the number of planning applications submitted in the last three years, number of units approved, number of affordable housing units, number of units appealed, as well as development charges and taxes associated with all units.” A report is expected back to City Council by the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023.

In his motion, Ridge observed that the City of Kingston has experienced “[Seven per cent] growth in the most recent census from Statistics Canada,” with just a 1.2 per cent vacancy rate in 2022.” Ridge 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.”

“I thought this motion, and the report that would come out of it, would be useful as a tool… for decision-making processes moving forward, to provide that context to members of Council. And if there are misconceptions in the public, on whichever side of the issue it may be, [the report] could help dispel some of those misconceptions,” added Ridge.

When it came time for debate, the motion received support from other councillors, including Williamsville District Councillor Vincent Cinanni, who agreed with the need for more quantitative information: “I think this is data we really need… especially for housing. This information will be great to have, when we have discussions, just to know what the realities are.”

Councillors also approved an amendment to Ridge’s motion, moved by Kingscourt-Rideau District Councillor Brandon Tozzo, which directed staff to estimate the impact of planning approval delays on “precarious housing, homelessness, and the vacancy rate.” Tozzo said the amendment would allow Council to consider Kingston’s “housing spectrum” as a whole.

“I was really curious [about] the data, and how much our vacancy rate is, and the impact it has overall on the housing spectrum and certain types of delays,” Tozzo said. “When it comes to housing, it’s good to have a full picture. Let’s emphasize how this has an impact on precarity, homelessness, and every aspect of the housing continuum.”

When asked whether the motion as amended provides sufficient direction to staff, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Lanie Hurdle noted that some data may be easier to come by than others.

“I think we can definitely provide some additional information looking at [the] vacancy rate and impact on housing,” she said. “The only one that may be difficult to quantify is homelessness. We can bring in information and numbers related to homelessness, but there’s so much more than [just] housing to the homeless issue.”

The CAO was also asked whether the deadline of Q4 2023 is enough time for staff to prepare a report with the necessary information, to which Hurdle replied that staff will start by looking at existing data already at their disposal. “What we could do to meet this timeframe is look at [the] information that we have available and the trends that we’ve seen over the last year… specifically [in terms of] the vacancy rate. I don’t think that would be an issue.” 

With no opposition from councillors, the new motion, as amended, passed unanimously.

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