KFHC and City of Kingston break ground on long-awaited affordable housing

Construction is finally set to get underway on one of the biggest mixed income housing projects the City of Kingston has seen to date.

In a news release, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said the building will help improve the affordable housing supply in the city.

"This project at 1316 Princess Street will go a long way in helping increase our community's supply of affordable housing to get people into quality and affordable places to call home," Paterson said in the release. 

"The City's ongoing partnership with the Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation's to build new affordable housing supply will benefit residents for generations to come,"

Paterson and other representatives from the city, as well as Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation (KFHC) were joined by Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen on Tuesday to officially break ground on the construction of a 92-unit building located at 1316 Princess Street. 

The land being used was initially purchased by the city roughly a decade ago, and with over 1,200 names - some being families - on KFHC's waitlist for rent geared to income units, the wait has been more than long enough. 

Kingston's Mayor Paterson says now that construction can actually begin, the parties involved will look to complete the project as soon as possible.

"There's no doubt that the need for affordable housing is right here, right now," Paterson said

"This project can't happen quickly enough so I know that everybody involved is going to do everything they can to get it finished as quickly as possible."

Paterson said that keeping housing and rent rates affordable for all levels of income comes down to a two-prong approach of building more housing to meet the demand and finding investment opportunities with other levels of government.

As part of Kingston's Strategic Plan 2019-22, the city aimed to achieve and maintain a vacancy rate of at least 3% by 2022.

At the start of this year, that vacancy rate was as low as 1.4%.

For MP Mark Gerretsen, seeing shovels hit the dirt is exciting as this land was purchased by the city of Kingston when he held the position of mayor. 

Gerretsen says while a number of factors - including the land previously being zoned for commercial use - have led to such a long delay in getting to this point, there's more work to be done going forward by the federal and provincial government to expedite this process at a time of such need. 

"I think that the federal government and the provincial government need to work together to help fast track this kind of thing," Gerretsen said. 

"The provincial government could step in to fast track and help expedite that... but there's also work that the federal government can do quite frankly."

The project, costing $31.5 million total with $17 million in city commitments, could help make a dent in the city's need for affordable housing, but the list of those in need in Canada and Kingston specifically appears to be ever-growing and at this time is badly outpacing the city's ability to make affordable units available. 

Statistics Canada has not published Canadian poverty stats since 2020, but in October of that year the World Bank estimated over 150 million people would be pushed into extreme poverty worldwide by the end of 2021. 

In addition to the city's contributions, the federal government has put forward $400,000 while Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CHMC) is contributing low interest loans. 

In the new building at 1316 Princess Street, 10 units will be rent geared to income while 42 units will be affordable units ranging between 60-80% of market rate.

In Kingston, the market rate of a one bedroom apartment has been identified $1,184 per month.

Mary Lynn Cousins Brame, Chief Executive Officer of KFHC, says that the need is urgent and getting no better, and families are waiting incredibly long stretches to be placed in an affordable situation. 

"There's a growing need," Cousins Brame said. 

"It can take, for example, five to eight years for a one bedroom. There is such a demand in our community."

The building follows a mixed-income model of other KFHC projects such as 40 Cliff Crescent, 645 Brock Street, and 27 Wright Crescent.

The city's release states that in addition to this 92 unit building, a 38 unit affordable housing project will be built adjacent to the site by Kingston Co-Operative Homes Inc.

The project is slated to be completed by 2024.

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative