Hundreds of new units coming to help address housing affordability in Waterloo Region6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Housing is an issue that affects every resident and business across the region. Taking action to address the housing affordability crisis is a top priority for the Region of Waterloo. Access to safe and affordable housing is vital for the local economy and quality of life.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing is considered to be affordable when a household spends less than 30 per cent of its pre-tax income on housing costs.
With housing costs continuing to rise, it is increasingly difficult to find housing that is affordable.
Taking action with Building Better Futures
Launched in 2021, the Region’s Building Better Futures (BBF) initiative is working towards the goal of creating 2,500 affordable housing units within five years. This has increased the number of affordable homes the Region develops from 50 homes a year to 500 homes a year – 10 times the amount developed prior to the pandemic.
Leveraging surplus lands
The Building Better Futures program is using new methods to bring affordable housing to the community. One of these bold new initiatives is using surplus government land for affordable housing development. Surplus lands are properties owned by the Region that are no longer needed for government services.
To date, four regional surplus sites have been identified for affordable housing development through a mixed-income model. These sites include 30 Lauris Avenue in Cambridge, 1388 Highland Road West in Kitchener and 41 Westhill Drive, Waterloo. A Request for Proposal (RFP) for each property will be issued to gather proposals from companies and/or non-profits interested in developing the property.
The initial pilot surplus lands project is located at 555 Beechwood Drive in Waterloo. Plans were considered in close consultation with the community beginning in 2020.
Collaborating with community
The housing crisis cannot be solved alone. Partnerships with all levels of government, local agencies, non-profits and private sector developers are critical. Some of the construction projects currently underway across the region to create new affordable housing units include:
27 Cambridge Street, K-W Urban Native Wigwam Project
This project by K-W Urban Native Wigwam Project will create 30 new affordable housing units to serve Indigenous community members. Sixteen units will be dedicated specifically to Indigenous women and their children. The project is supported with $3 million from the Region’s Equity Investment Fund. Occupancy is anticipated in February 2024.
49 Queen Street North, Indwell project with St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
This Indwell project with St. Peter’s Lutheran Church will create 41 new supportive housing units. The project is supported with $8.9 million from the Region’s Strategic Investment Fund for affordable housing. Occupancy is anticipated in fall 2024.
825 King Street, Indwell project with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
This Indwell project with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church will create 43 new affordable supportive housing units. The project is supported with $3.2M from the Region of Waterloo and $1.4M in Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative funding. Occupancy is expected in
fall of 2023.
97 Victoria Avenue, The Working Centre
The Working Centre, supported by $9.8 million in funding from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI-3), coordinated by the Region of Waterloo, will create 44 new units. Occupancy is anticipated in fall 2024.
Revitalizing Waterloo Region Housing
Waterloo Region Housing provides nearly 3,000 affordable housing units in 67 properties across the region. The Region is revitalizing six Waterloo Region Housing communities to improve facilities and increase the number of units available.
420 Kingscourt Drive, Waterloo Region Housing
A new building is being constructed on the same site as an existing Waterloo Region Housing building at 416 Kingscourt Drive. This will add 73 units, ranging from one to five bedrooms. Nineteen of the units will have enhanced accessibility. The project will include three new amenity spaces available to residents in both 416 and 420 Kingscourt Drive.
The Region of Waterloo is investing a total of $38 million in the project which includes financing of $5.5 million from the Government of Canada through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF), a program delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The project is expected to be completed in February 2025.
Supporting choice with rent assistance
In addition to building new affordable housing units, the Region also supports housing affordability for low-income racialized families with the Portable Rent Assistance Program. The financial support is not tied to a specific unit or location but rather allows recipients to choose their own rental housing.
Funded through Equity Assistance, this program provides supports for nearly 200 individuals or families as identified by community partners, forming part of the Building Better Futures program. While there is much more work to be done, with each project and initiative the Region is one step closer to creating a community that thrives and where everyone has a place to call home.