Kingston Council approves grant application for Home Base Housing project

Home Base Housing’s Kingston Youth Services Hub hopes to be the recipient of a $13.9 million grant from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative. Photo by Josie Vallier.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, Kingston City Council voted unanimously to submit an application to the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) Projects Stream on behalf of the Kingston Youth Services Hub currently being built at 484 Albert Street and 620 Princess Street. The project, led by Home Base Housing, will create 48 new affordable, transitional, and supportive housing units for Kingston youth at the former Princess Street United Church.

While City Council has already helped secure millions of dollars in funding for the project, including $4.8 million through the provincial government’s Home for Good Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF), a successful application to the RHI would provide the Youth Services Hub with its single greatest funding source, in the form of a $13.9 million grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“We’ve taken the initiative to advance the project as far as we have, and that’s a fair ways,” noted Tom Greening, Executive Director of Home Base Housing. “We’ve spent more than $2 million on design, re-zoning, cost consultants, and site work. And we hope that this project, if brought forward, will also bring in significant resources from the provincial and federal government.”

The Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) is a program administered by the CMHC that provides funding for new long-term affordable housing units. The RHI includes two different program streams: the Cities Stream, which provides funding to municipalities, and the Projects Stream, which funds community projects across the country using an applications-based process. 

According to a staff report circulated in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Home Base Housing has already secured a number of zoning bylaw amendments and approvals for the site, with the organization now looking to finalize the details of its capital budget requirements. The total cost of the project is estimated at $36.9 million.

The staff report provided two different options for City Council to consider. Option One included a direction to staff to prepare an application for the RHI Projects Stream on behalf of Home Base Housing. This option also included a $9.9 million “forgivable loan” to the organization, on behalf of the City of Kingston, as well as $420,000 per year in operating funding and rent subsidies. On top of funding from the RHI, the first option also included a direction for staff to request an extension of the SSRF funding, for a period of up to two years.

Option Two in the report would have seen the City not proceed with an application to the RHI’s Project Stream. Instead, the second option would have directed staff to request an extension of the SSRF funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which is currently set to expire at the end of March. The option also asked staff to work with Home Base House to “redefine the scope of its project and reduce the overall cost and report back with other capital and operating funding options.”

Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof spoke in favour of Home Base Housing’s request. Screen captured image.

During Tuesday night’s Council meeting, many members spoke in favour of Option One and the need to support Home Base Housing’s project. “I’ve [been] very impressed with the work being done and the vision for this project,” remarked Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof. “I think all of Council [recognizes] the importance of this project moving forward… This is an opportunity to make something truly wonderful happen.”

“This is exactly the type of comprehensive project that we need if we’re going to even get a remote… handle on the homeless situation that we have,” added Sydenham District Councillor Conny Glenn.

Voicing his support for the project, Portsmouth District Councillor Don Amos spoke about his experience working in youth services. “In another life, I got to work with vulnerable youth… This is a good step… There is a gap between transition youth housing and moving into adult housing, and this avenue will provide that.”

In order to receive RHI funding, projects must be completed within 18 months. Considering the tight turnaround such a guideline would impose on Home Base Housing, Commissioner of Community Services Paige Agnew addressed what might happen should the units not be completed on time. “If the project isn’t completed [within] the timelines, it would be the municipality, essentially, that would be taking on any potential impact.” 

While Agnew noted that no financial penalties would be imposed on the City, failure to complete the project within 18 months could carry additional drawbacks for the municipality. “The one thing in particular [CMHC] identified is, it may impact our ability to secure future funding if we’re not able to successfully complete the project within the timing and the parameters that are specified in the agreement.” 

Option One from the report passed with unanimous support from Council. City staff will now work with Home Base Housing to prepare an application to the RHI Projects Stream, which must be submitted to CMHC by March 15, 2023.

2 thoughts on “Kingston Council approves grant application for Home Base Housing project

  • Would like to help with your application
    Not sure I can but I’m willing to try

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