Kingston Council to consider funding allocations for housing, homelessness programs

On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Kingston City Council will vote on funding allocations for housing and homelessness projects in the city, based on funding received from the province. Photo by Kristina Guevremont.

The City of Kingston is set to receive millions of dollars in funding from the provincial government, which will be used to support a number of different housing and homelessness projects in the city. According to a staff report circulating in advance of the May 16, 2023, council meeting, the City of Kingston will receive funding through three different provincial programs, as part of the 2023-2025 funding years. 

The report notes that the City was first made aware in February of the funding allocations, which include the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) and the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI), which staff say “are intended to support the stabilization and maintenance of existing community housing assets and expanding the supply of the community housing stock.” 

From 2023 to 2025, the two initiatives will pump more than $5 million into community-based and affordable housing projects in Kingston. While both programs focus on housing and homelessness strategies, each fund comes with its own scope and funding 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 COCHI’s definition of community housing, the initiative incorporates a wide range of “non-market housing programs,” including “social housing (also known as rent-geared-to-income housing), affordable housing, and supportive housing that are typically owned by non-profit organizations or municipal housing corporations,” the report notes. 

The COHCI program receives its funding as part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy. “The program guidelines indicate COCHI funds provide flexibility for [municipalities] to support the repair, renewal, and expansion of the social housing stock,” the report adds. Staff note that funds secured through the program may be used for “repair and renovation projects,” as well as for rent subsidization for tenants. 

The report provides a further breakdown of how the funds would be distributed, as staff prioritize repair and renovation funding for the 2023-2025 program year. “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 say.

Meanwhile, the OPHI program is meant to provide the City with “flexibility” by allocating funding “which address[es] affordability, repair, and the construction of new affordable housing units.” Staff are recommending that OPHI funding be used to support the Kingston-Frontenac Renovates Program, which “provides financial assistance to low-income homeowner households to complete urgent repairs and accessibility enhancements.” 

The OPHI program also provides capital funding for affordable rental housing projects. “Affordable rental housing capital funding assists non-profit housing providers to construct or acquire new affordable housing units,” adds the report. Individual projects would be brought to Council for approval on a “project-by-project basis.” From 2023 to 2025, the OPHI program will provide the City of Kingston with $1.87 million in funding. 

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 from COCHI and OPHI, the City of Kingston is also set to 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. The report notes that this year’s allocation represents a 77 per cent increase over the funding received in the last fiscal year. 

While the additional HPP funding will be used to “support the increased level of homelessness supports established during the pandemic,” it will not fully cover all of the City’s homelessness prevention initiatives. As such, “staff anticipate that some prevention services will be funded from the $1,700,000 approved from 2023 City operating budget.” 

A complete breakdown of HPP funding for 2023-2024 shows the City would 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 are also recommending $150,000 in funding from the HPP to support 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).

HPP funding would also be used to provide operational funding for emergency shelter solutions, with staff recommending $3.4 million be directed to the funding category for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Of the $3.4 million, staff are proposing $1.4 for permanent shelter operations, such as In from the Cold, and Lily’s Place. The remaining $2 million will be spent on the continued operations of emergency shelter measures, including the Concession and Adelaide Street Warming/Drop-in Centres. 

A further $1.29 million would be spent on operational funding for housing assistance and supportive housing projects, including support for a “head leasing initiative” led by Lionhearts Inc. That program will lease houses and individual apartments from private landlords for a period of up to five years. “Lionhearts expects to accommodate up to 25 individuals in 2023 and another 25 in 2024,” notes the report. “The program requires occupancy subsidies of $400 per person per month, plus $2,500 per person per year for apartment fit-up and contingency funds.”

The staff report, which includes a complete breakdown of funding allocations for all three programs, will be presented to Kingston City Council at its next meeting. Councillors will vote on the funding allocations as outlined in the report, as well as amendments to service agreements with various organizations to further facilitate the funding. 

The Tuesday, May 16, 2023, meeting begins at 7 p.m. inside Council Chambers. The meeting will be open to the public and can also be streamed online through the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

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