This article appears in the Vicki New Times - coming to a mailbox near you!
Housing crisis in Kingston
Housing across Canada is in a mess and Kingston is no exception. Gentrification is driving people out of downtown and units in new buildings are out of reach of half the population.
Almost 30% of rental households are paying more than they can afford for housing, live in substandard housing, or both, according to Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) analysis of Kingston’s core housing needs. For single mothers who rent, the picture is even worse; 35% of them fall into the “Core Housing Need” category. Since that report, the housing picture in Kingston has gotten even worse.
Few choices exist for renters and rents are going up. The average two bedroom rent in Kingston was $1,099 in 2015 and increased 5% to $1,157 in 2017. Kingston’s Housing Strategy commits to addressing these issues. Concentration of low-income households was supposed to be reduced. Relief from density, height, or parking restrictions was to be used as leverage to include low-rent or low-cost units in a development. This has not happened.
Look at the announcement of new low-income housing made by the City, the Province, and the federal government this year. Twenty-three units were added to the 46 existing mental health units in Kingscourt and eight units were added to Kingston Frontenac Housing stock at Cliff Crescent, both projects increasing the concentration of low-income housing. Only 18 units were located in other areas, 10 units at 645 Brock Street and 8 units being developed by Dawn House Shelter for Women. Affordable units were not included in new development projects.
Compare the amount being built with the dimensions of the problem. According to the City’s annual housing report, 1,313 households are on the waiting list for rent-geared-to-income placements. Of these, 941 are for bachelor and one-bedroom units with a waiting time of from 5 to 8 years. We know that many people choose not to be on the waiting list because the wait is so long, and their need is so immediate.
The situation is compounded by the number of students from Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College who lease rental units. In addition, the Canadian Armed Forces Base no longer takes responsibility for housing all its members. In noting the demand from students and the military, we are not suggesting they are the problem. They also have a housing need.
So what is to be done? Consider the wartime housing in Kingscourt. Over 200 prefabricated units were built in a matter of months. It was intended to be temporary, but people found a way to build a community and to convert the units into permanent housing that has remained affordable for over 70 years.
Today’s housing need is an opportunity for innovation and economic activity. The City must live up to its commitments and apply its Official Plan policies by inducing private developments to help address all levels of housing needs.
The City must meet its commitment to redevelop Rideau Heights. Half the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation housing in Rideau Heights has been declared too dilapidated to be renovated; the other half are considered in desperate need of repair. The proposed twenty-five-year time frame to do this unconscionable.
It is time for the city to stop being a slum landlord and it is time to start really working on solving the affordable housing crisis in Kingston.