Kingston Council to vote on “seed funding” recommendation for Limestone Co-Operative Housing

On Tuesday, Kingston City Council will debate a staff report which recommends the City provide Limestone Co-Operative Housing with $50,000 in “seed funding.” Photo by Josie Vallier.

On Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2023, Kingston City Council will vote whether or not to provide $50,000 in “seed funding” for Limestone Co-Operative Housing (LCCH), a new not-for-profit organization that aims to provide housing to residents on a cooperative basis. According to a staff report circulating ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, City staff are recommending Council approve $50,000 for LCCH, in order to help the organization advance its “affordable housing goals.” 

“The LCCH was recently incorporated and has been working on developing its first affordable housing project. The LCCH currently does not have any funding or assets and therefore is requiring financial support to retain appropriate professional expertise such as architects, planners, engineers, etc. to develop a concept and costing for an affordable housing project,” notes the staff report. 

Staff add that the City currently has a “project viability budget” within the municipality’s capital funding which allows it to support the construction of new housing units. “The funds are typically utilized for studies, financial plans and drawings,” reads the report. “The City has supported various organizations and projects in the past with this seed funding, most recently the redevelopment of Providence Manor.”

On top of the $50,000 in seed funding being proposed for the organization, the staff report also identifies two City-owned properties which could eventually be transferred to LCCH: 900 Division Street and 367 Gore Road. According to staff, the two properties have already been identified by the City for “potential disposition for the purpose of housing developments.” The seed funding is expected to cover studies and other reports for both sites, allowing LCCH to complete a comprehensive review of both options. 

The report suggests that it will be critical for LCCH to select a site that allows for a “cost-effective development” for the organization’s first housing project: “It is important for the LCCH to build credibility and equity through this first project and therefore consider a project of a smaller scope to ensure that it is feasible and affordable.” 

In terms of the number of units, the two sites would be able to accommodate, staff note the location at 900 Division Street could support up to 300 residential units. “The property is approximately 0.5 hectares, or 1.25 acres, in size and has frontage on two municipal streets. The location of the property on a major north-south arterial road in the central area of the City, and serviced by high-frequency transit along the Division Street corridor, makes the site an optimal location for housing development,” the report reads. 

Meanwhile, the site at 367 Gore Road could incorporate up to 80 residential units, “depending on the unit type,” suggests the report. Staff go on to describe that property, located in the city’s east end, as “undeveloped and in its natural state.” The 1.5-hectare property includes just 0.7 hectares of “developable area.” 

Should LCCH identify the 900 Division Street property as the preferred location for its first development, staff are recommending the site only include a “limited number of affordable units,” due to the location’s proximity to other affordable housing units in the area. Instead, the project could include a number of market rental units which would subsidize additional below-market rental units.

Where 367 Gore Road is concerned, a potential development on that site could help bring much-needed affordable housing to an underserved part of the city. According to the report, there are currently just two affordable housing projects in the east end. Staff indicate they would support efforts to increase the number of affordable units in the east end, which the report suggests will “diversify the neighbourhood.” 

On top of the construction of affordable housing units, the report also indicates that LCCH intends to include some form of urban farming within the development. Staff note that the 900 Division Street location would likely only have room for “vertical farming,” while the 367 Gore Road site would be able to accommodate “ground-oriented urban farming.” 

During Tuesday’s meeting, members of Council will debate staff’s recommendation to provide LCCH with $50,000 in seed funding. Should the motion pass, LCCH is expected to conduct reviews of both sites, with a full report due back to Council before any transfers of land can take place. 

Aside from the proposed seed funding, the City of Kingston has already supported LCCH by adding a member of Council to the organization’s board of directors. Back in March of 2023, City Council approved a motion to appoint Meadowbrook-Strathcona District Councillor Jeff McLaren to the board. In preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, McLaren issued a press release urging his fellow councillors to support the recommendations of staff.

“I really hope this passes because we are in a bit of a catch-22 situation… All the really big grants require high-level documentation from professionals, such as
architects, to determine the amount of funding awarded. Unfortunately, without money to hire those professionals, the organization is in a position where it cannot apply for those big grants,” the release reads.

“This recommendation from City staff will, thankfully, help LCCH fill that gap,” McLaren continued in the release. “This seed money should be enough to obtain those reports needed, which include architectural plans and various studies on feasibility. Additionally, the organization will require zoning by-law amendments, which could add additional time and expenses to the project.”

Tuesday night’s Kingston City Council meeting is set for 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. The meeting will be open to the public and available to stream live on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

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