Affordable Housing Strategy

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The supply of affordable housing in Waterloo has not kept pace with demand. Over the past few decades, housing prices and rents have increased substantially faster than incomes, creating affordability challenges for many Waterloo households. The impact of reduced affordability can be seen region-wide in increased homelessness and a growing community housing waitlist and longer wait times. Populations most affected by the gap between income and housing costs include older adults, Indigenous peoples, new Canadians, single parent households, and individuals experiencing mental health challenges and/or addictions. Increasingly, young adults and moderate income earners are also finding it challenging to secure housing that they can afford.

To address the growing problem of housing affordability, the City of Waterloo is developing an Affordable Housing Strategy. The strategy will identify actions to be undertaken by the City to protect the existing affordable housing stock and to increase the supply of new affordable housing in the City. The strategy will consider approaches to address affordability challenges for low and moderate income households, and options to ensure a sustainable supply of a diverse range of housing types, sizes and tenures (i.e. ownership or rental housing).

Check out our latest research and recommendations in the documents section on the right side of the page. You can leave a comment at anytime if you have ideas or suggestions about affordable housing.

The supply of affordable housing in Waterloo has not kept pace with demand. Over the past few decades, housing prices and rents have increased substantially faster than incomes, creating affordability challenges for many Waterloo households. The impact of reduced affordability can be seen region-wide in increased homelessness and a growing community housing waitlist and longer wait times. Populations most affected by the gap between income and housing costs include older adults, Indigenous peoples, new Canadians, single parent households, and individuals experiencing mental health challenges and/or addictions. Increasingly, young adults and moderate income earners are also finding it challenging to secure housing that they can afford.

To address the growing problem of housing affordability, the City of Waterloo is developing an Affordable Housing Strategy. The strategy will identify actions to be undertaken by the City to protect the existing affordable housing stock and to increase the supply of new affordable housing in the City. The strategy will consider approaches to address affordability challenges for low and moderate income households, and options to ensure a sustainable supply of a diverse range of housing types, sizes and tenures (i.e. ownership or rental housing).

Check out our latest research and recommendations in the documents section on the right side of the page. You can leave a comment at anytime if you have ideas or suggestions about affordable housing.

Please share your comments with us

The Affordable Housing Strategy Discussion Paper identifies 30 possible actions that the city could take to help improve housing affordability in the City. After you have reviewed the Discussion Paper, please consider the following in your comments to help guide the project team:

1) Which actions do you think are the most important? The least important? Why?

2) Do you have other ideas that the City should explore that weren’t already mentioned?

General comments on this project are still welcome. 

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The most important actions to take are those which will lead to the greatest increase in housing supply regardless of if it is market rate or not. This is because increasing market rate housing supply reduces competition for so called “affordable” or non-market rate housing, meaning that it can be given to the people that truly need it. From the given document, the items that stand out as most important are G1A2 permitting more housing in more places, G1A3 removal of a parking minimums (which has the added benefit of making active and public transportation more attractive), G4A1 allowing missing middle housing, and G6A1 setting and monitoring targets. The least important items from the document in my opinion are G1A4 adopting a CPPS (as it provides little benefit over a well written zoning code), G3A2 increasing regulation on demolishing existing rental (has the potential to hinder supply growth if implemented poorly), and G5A3 a potential development fee waiving program (could cause future problems in funding necessary services and infrastructure for new housing). I’m unsure of the meaning of G1A5, so I think more clarification may be necessary. As for things that aren’t mentioned which I believe are important, they would be ensuring a mix of uses in new developments, reviewing minimum setback requirements, reviewing lot coverage requirements, and reviewing lot size requirements. Ensuring a mix of uses will indirectly aid in housing affordability as it will reduce the costs associated with living in the region (especially transportation) and thus will make the overall cost of living decrease even without a change in housing prices. The other three recommendations will all help to ensure that more units of housing can be built per building. This is especially noticeable somewhere like the University area, where many buildings are built quite tall but very far apart and very far back from the street. Reducing the space between the buildings and between the buildings and the street would increase the total supply of housing in the area without disrupting smaller and less dense neighbourhoods, and also without causing much damage to the environment as most of that land is already paved over.

mattfr 6 days ago

Affordable housing at 82 Wilson Drovy in Kitchener could have an impact on my project 'Montgomery Creek Restoration' which is immediately downstream of the project. Our model needs to be updated with the new flow coming out of this lot to ensure that the floodline will not be affected. In that case I need complete discharge from this lot to the creek.

mohammad.rahman_9495 10 days ago

Most important is to increase total housing supply. As someone who is now in their mid 20's I would like to become a first time home buyer, but without family assistance or a partner I don't know how I will even be able to afford the down payment on a house. Additionally, the monthly mortgage costs will end up being a large portion of my disposal income (leaving little for things such as medical expenses or hobbies).

drose 14 days ago

I am in my eighties. I live in a well maintained smaller home in Old Westmount and enjoy my gardens. I enjoy my gardens and I thought 23 years ago I retired well. In addition, to people being able to afford entry level housing. I would like to comment on affordability from a senior's perspective. I wish the brilliant minds at city council would think of seniors when it comes to affordability. This includes tax rates. I do not get cost of living adjustments and I cannot afford the CIty of Waterloo's visionaries 8-10% tax increases and the hidden taxes such as water run off disguised as fees but are actually hidden taxes. I hope the next council we elect is fiscally responsible, reigns in the uncontrolled development currently going on and mandates the end of cookie cutter housing, and mandates affordable housing being built for seniors and first time families who need a home. I feel this project is a knee jerk reaction when the horse has already left the barn. This is due to a planning department and politicians who have no idea of the harm they are doing to people through their gentrification. I feel I am being removed from my homes by 19th century land barons who are being supported by the current council and their minions.

Marg Hoss-Bay about 2 months ago

Important actions to me (in no particular order):
1.2(G1A2(2)) and increasing permissible gentle density on the large amount of single-family homes. This pairs well with community permitting, which is a good endeavour.

1.3(G1A3(1)) which I think can be more aggressive even in areas covered by GRT but not Ion specifically. I think we can let developers do a greater variety of development when it comes to parking allocations.

2.3(G2A3(1)) a concierge service sounds excellent, but needs to be paired with the financial resources to make capacity expansion work, including operating funds.

4.1(G4A1(1)) I'm a fan of making far more missing middle housing permissible, like permitting quadplexes city-wide. I'm less a fan of the paired recommendation on having minimum % of multi-bedroom units, it doesn't make sense for student neighbourhoods, the market should handle it itself, and if city council doesn't think the market is handling it, it already has a tool in the development charge regime.

5.2(G5A2(1)) Increasing affordable housing funding in a predictable fashion seems important.

5.3/5.5(both), removing development charges for not-for profit housing just makes sense.

General comments and least important:
The above recommendations got me most excited, many of the others are good and some of them I have mixed opinions on.
3.3 vacant homes feel like the effort to administer would be high relative to the benefits.

2.1 Inclusionary zoning is an interesting tool, but I'd want to see it at a level that doesn't depress building market-rate housing or raise the market-rate housing too much. Something in the 5-10% of units in developments over 20 units range might make sense. What I'd really prefer is density bonusing for hitting affordable unit benchmarks.

Matthew G about 2 months ago

A policy that puts affordability into each new build is required. A number of cities in Europe have as much as 30 percent affordability requirements, and an equal or greater amount of middle-income housing for new housing. We have nothing like that; to even consider it is anathema to developers who believe they have the right to build whatever they want on their property. So, if we cannot have a European model of affordable housing, then let's implement the Toronto policy, where 10% must be affordable for 99 years (increasing every year by a certain amount). Montreal has a 20-20-20 policy as of April 1(20 per cent social housing, 20 per cent affordable housing and 20 per cent “family housing” with a minimum of three bedrooms). Can we do more? Yes, but only if we demand it. If not, we are subject to the market and will have a large number of people who cannot afford to live in our region.

Gail about 2 months ago

The City could allow a greater variety of housing types (ie Semi detached houses and triplexes) in areas that are exclusively zoned for single detached dwellings, this would allow for reinvestment in areas that have not seen much housing replacement while still providing quality housing options and without dramatically changing a nieghbourhood.

Zach Prince 4 months ago

It's important that any investments in affordable housing create permanent affordable housing communities. That means working with non-profit housing co-operatives and other non-profit organizations whose mission and values support such communities, rather than gifting money to private developers to encourage them to throw in a few units that are temporarily affordable while they pursue their larger corporate goal of making a profit.

Scott Stager Piatkowski about 1 year ago

The city is in dire need of medium-density mixed-used zoning basically everywhere. The forced dichotomy of single-family zoning, ultra-high density, and separated commercial regions creates incredible market pressures. Medium-density would really go hand-in-hand with creation of a public housing authority/trust to quickly develop public and cooperatively-owned medium density housing developments - it's much cheaper/easier to develop than tall condo buildings. This would also create better places for people to live than car-oriented suburbs with performative back yards or small condo apartments in giant buildings.

Andrew R. about 1 year ago

Property taxes are raised 3.5% for two years and you want affordable housing. That ranks right up there with the Region adding $1000 to each lot for the LRT. Unbelievable. Just stop spending.

Baringham about 1 year ago

Allow high density developments across the region in all neighborhoods. There’s no such thing as “preserving neighborhood character” — that’s just an excuse for property owners to try to exploit rising housing prices for personal gain at the expense of community propsperity. The city should resist NIMBY attitudes in favor of denser housing permits. Housing is a question of dignity, not generational wealth creation.

Badakchand over 1 year ago

We definitely need shared neighborhoods that allow people of different economic circumstances to mix and mingle, get to know each other and reduce an "us vs them" mentality, solely on the basis of economic circumstance. Properly designed and with plenty of walkable areas and green space would do wonders to get people out of the cloistered urban deserts now being designed.

Yves over 1 year ago

Integration with broader housing is key in this process: do not build economic ghettos.
Also, try to manage property tax rates: this is a significant cost of housing.

David-Waterloo over 1 year ago

If you look at the older neighbourhoods, there is mixture of housing types and affordability options. I believe you can integrate the communities better by not building any more cookie cutter developments with one affordability option only isolates communities from each other. In future developers should be asked to build different housing types with different affordability options.

JoLogicCommonSense over 1 year ago
Page last updated: 25 May 2022, 01:44 PM