What is affordable housing?

    Affordable housing means that a household that is able to meet its housing needs while still being able to afford other essentials. Affordable housing is not just about cost. It is also important to consider other factors like the condition of the home and whether it comfortably accommodates the number of people living there. 

    In Canada, housing is considered “affordable” if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income. Many people understand the term “affordable housing” as a reference to rental housing, subsidized by the government. In reality, the term is much broader in that it can include housing provided by the public, private, and non-profit sectors and can refer to all forms of housing tenure such as rental, ownership, co-operative ownership, as well as temporary and permanent accommodations. 

    Why do we need an Affordable Housing Strategy?

    The City of Kitchener has recently experienced a 104 per cent increase in the cost to purchase housing and a 41 per cent increase in the cost to rent housing. Visible homelessness has increased. Kitchener residents and the business community have identified affordable housing as one of the top issues facing the city.  

    An Affordable Housing Strategy outlines the city’s role in supporting affordable housing. It will establish targets and serve as an action plan for improving housing options and opportunities in Kitchener. 

    What is a housing needs assessment?

    A housing needs assessment typically involves gathering and evaluating specific demographic data, economic characteristics and trends, current and projected housing inventory and characteristics, government policies and incentives, reviewing the adequacy and availability of selected community services, as well as collecting the input of area stakeholders and residents. An assessment concludes with identifying the gap between the number of housing units needed in the market by tenure (rentals vs. for-sale), price point, bedroom type and market segment (e.g. families, seniors, disabled, young professionals, etc.) and the number of units . The assessment also typically provides recommendations on how to achieve certain housing goals and will provide recommendations on potential housing policy initiatives that would benefit the local housing market.

    What can the city do to address housing affordability?

    The regional, provincial and federal governments have direct responsibilities to address affordable housing issues.  There are also several ways a city can address or influence affordable housing.  The Affordable Housing Strategy will help determine which tools will be most useful in the Kitchener context.

    What is inclusionary housing/zoning?

    Inclusionary zoning is an optional land use planning tool used by municipalities that requires residential developments of 10 units or more to include affordable housing units. These units would then need to be maintained as affordable over a specified period of time. This tool is typically used to create affordable housing for low-and moderate-income households and works well in locations experiencing rapid population growth and high demand for housing, accompanied by strong economies and housing markets. 

    What kinds of affordable housing will be included in the Affordable Housing Strategy – what about Homelessness?

    The Affordable Housing Strategy is intended to address the full housing continuum – from homelessness, shelters, transitional housing, supportive housing, social housing, co-operatives, co-housing, rental housing, affordable home ownership and market ownership housing to meet the diverse needs of Kitchener residents through all stages of their lives.