At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, Mayor Bryan Paterson made it very clear he intended his Task Force on Housing to begin work right away.
That same night, Council voted unanimously to add two tenant representatives to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, which was already made up of 10 individuals. But adding to more members to the Task Force didn’t mean the group charged with the task of finding solutions to Kingston’s housing issues wouldn’t begin work as soon as possible. In fact, just a week and a day later, the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing sat for their first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.
So who are the two newest members of the equally as new Task Force? We caught up with Paterson to find out who the two tenant representatives are, and what background, insight, and/or experience they bring with them to the Task Force.
The first tenant member is Tara Kainer, a long-time anti-poverty activist in the community who works with the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. Kainer currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which “takes on issues such as poverty, hunger, affordable energy, and a true and lasting peace,” according to the Sisters of Providence website.
“Tara is very well respected. She definitely has a lot of experience with anti-poverty issues and initiatives, and so I think she’ll bring a really important perspective to the table,” said Paterson.
The second tenant member is Mike Cavanaugh, a Queen’s University student who has been involved with Queen’s Alma Mater Society (AMS). Cavanaugh also serves as the Constituency Assistance to MP Mark Gerretsen, and as the Communications Officer for the Queen’s University Liberal Association.
“So Mike is a tenant, but he brings a student and millennial perspective to the table, and he has also been involved with the Queen’s Alma Mater Society,” Paterson said.
“Certainly student housing has been a key focus for the AMS, so he brings both personal experience, but also the understanding of housing issues for young people in our community.”
Paterson said that the first meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing was “fantastic,” noting that he only stayed for the first part of the meeting.
“We had introductions and everyone had a chance to share their background and what they thought they were able to bring to the table, and then we had a question and answer period with me, just to make sure that everyone around the table understood what it was that I was hoping that they would be able to do,” Paterson said.
“At that point, I left them to begin their work, and so I’m going to be checking in and seeing how they’re doing, but they’re now running with it. And the two excellent co-chairs have all the details in hand at this point.”
The Mayor said he is happy with the way the group has come together and he is confident in their ability to address the issue at hand – the lack of housing throughout Kingston in all price ranges.
“My feeling is that everybody around that table brings something important to this issue, whether it’s their knowledge, whether it’s their experience, or whether it’s their perspective,” Paterson expressed.
“Not only do they bring knowledge and experience and perspective, but every single one of them… they all have an ability not only to bring their own position to the table, but also to hear different perspectives and different positions from others, and to be able to work together… the vision of this is to bring the community together, and this group is really representing many different facets of the community all coming together for a common purpose”
And as for what solutions and ideas the Task Force might report back to Council with, Paterson said he is not only optimistic, but looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
“I think it’s going to be a combination of things. I think we might see some best practices that have already been implemented in other communities that have been facing similar housing pressures,” he said, “But I could also see some unique, creative Kingston solutions as part of that mix. I don’t think they’ll come back with one thing, I think it’ll be a set of different things, and we’ll look forward to discussing it around the council table when they come back to us.”