City of Waterloo takes action towards creating 700 affordable, attainable units

Posted On Monday April 29, 2024

City of Waterloo council unanimously approved the direction to move towards rezoning lands at 2025 University Avenue E to support a new, mixed-income housing development that could support up to 700 affordable and attainable units. The lands, originally part of the purchase to support the construction of RIM Park, have been vacant for years. While currently zoned for employment use, evaluations indicate the 10-hectare property may better serve the community as an opportunity for affordable housing.

“People need affordable places to live," said Mayor Dorothy McCabe. "The province told us that we need 16,000 new housing units built by 2031. The community told us they need more affordable options, more missing-middle housing, and more housing opportunities in general for families, individuals, seniors and youth of all socio-economic backgrounds. Housing is not just bricks and mortar. It’s about fostering thriving, sustainable communities and neighbourhoods. It’s about taking a large parcel of municipally-owned land and transforming it into the affordable and attainable housing Waterloo residents need."

Since the adoption of the City of Waterloo’s Affordable Housing Strategy, staff have been looking for opportunities to use City-owned lands to support the creation of housing, including evaluating the feasibility of a land grant, lease or sale with the net proceeds allocated to support affordable housing objectives. The money received from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund presented an opportunity for the City to explore ways to make municipally-owned lands available at low or no cost to private and not-for-profit developers to build affordable and attainable, mixed-use complete communities.

A study to estimate the potential for the property included a high-level concept plan focused on missing middle, four to six-storey buildings, such as stacked townhouses and mid-rise apartments. These buildings are compact and could maximize the number of housing units on the site, while still providing some ground-oriented built forms and options for larger households. The scale of development would permit wood frame construction which would also support lower construction costs and greater affordability.

The concept plan revealed the property could support an estimated 480 stacked townhouses and 250 apartment units for a total of 730 units or 73 units per hectare. The exact number of units and the proportion of units that are affordable/attainable, market/non-market and rented/owned will be determined in the future. The first step is to successfully convert the lands to support residential use, followed by a public procurement process to select an appropriate development design and building partner, before beginning the detailed planning, design work and costing.  

To make the land available for residential development, the property (currently an open field) will need to be converted from employment use to residential. This can be done either through a Region-initiated review and amendment to their official plan or through a provincial Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) under the Planning Act. The MZO process would be a single application, replacing three planning processes (amendment to the Region’s official plan, the City’s official plan and the City’s zoning by-law). With the urgency to see affordable and attainable housing development within our community, Waterloo staff recommended the MZO process to Council as the quickest way to facilitate the use of 2025 University Avenue for residential development. The City of Waterloo is committed to public consultation and transparency in this process, per the new submission requirements recently released by the Province for MZO requests.

The decision today is another way the City of Waterloo is addressing the issue of housing in our community: advancing the City of Waterloo Affordable Housing Strategy to increase the supply and mix of affordable housing, the City’s commitment to our provincial housing pledge of 16,000 units by 2031 and our Housing Accelerator Fund action plan. Residents can follow this project on Engage Waterloo:




Media contact:
Cari Van Niekerk
Director, Corporate Communications