Launching the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing

Housing is a top political issue in our community. After last fall’s election, I pledged to launch a Mayor’s Task Force on Housing during the first 100 days of my second term. This week marks the formal launch of this Task Force, with a unanimous City Council vote approving the formation of a group of 12 individuals that will work together to come up with ideas and solutions to address the current housing situation in Kingston.

Why do we need a Housing Task Force? The challenge with housing is that City Council cannot address the issue on its own. The City can build roads, water and sewer pipes and the City can put policies in place to manage residential development, but at the end of the day, it’s not the City building the housing our community needs. That’s why we need to work with community partners and stakeholders, all of whom understand the importance of expanding the housing supply.

The Task Force is a forum for this important collaboration. It will bring together representatives from the development community, the real estate industry, the non-profit housing sector, post-secondary institutions and City Councillors. I’m also very pleased to have two excellent co-chairs on the Task Force: former Member of Parliament Ted Hsu and current City Councillor Mary Rita Holland. So what happens now? Here’s some of the work the Task Force will be undertaking over the next 8-10 months:

Examine best practices from other communities: There are a number of cities in Ontario and cities around the world that have been grappling with a housing crunch for many years. What ideas and solutions worked in these communities that can be adopted in Kingston?

Consider new creative solutions: What made in Kingston solutions are available to promote a variety of housing options? What tools or incentives could we make available to encourage development?

Commission an analysis on the economics of building housing in Kingston: What are the costs of building new residential housing? What is the financial return from building market rate rental housing? What strategies could we use to build more affordable housing? It’s important that we have this information to guide the City to ensure that it makes financial sense for builders to construct new housing.

Consult with the public: The Task Force will need to consider the lived experiences of a broad range of individuals looking for housing in our community, including seniors, students, young families and vulnerable populations. The more input the Task Force receives, the better its recommendations will be. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone with an interest in housing to engage the Task Force.

The Task Force is due to report back to City Council with its recommendations by the end of this year. At that point we can get to work as a community implementing those recommendations, and ensuring real progress is made on the housing front in the next few years.