Council approves affordable housing strategy and confirms housing pledge

Posted On Monday March 20, 2023

Council has approved its first affordable housing strategy (AHS) which outlines a blueprint of actions that the city will take to improve housing choices for Waterloo residents and those moving to the community.

Today’s approval allows the city to immediately move ahead with 59 actions, including creating more opportunities to enable the construction of missing middle housing; making it easier to build second units by eliminating parking requirements for second units near ION stops; and enhancing Waterloo’s Rental Housing Support webpage to provide more supports for landlords and tenants..

As well, the AHS positions the city to implement medium and longer term actions including exploring the feasibility of using city-owned lands for affordable housing and the development of a rental housing acquisition program that encourages the transition of rental buildings into community ownership. These initiatives would be subject to future budget deliberations.

In addition, Council has formally confirmed a provincial housing pledge to accommodate 16,000 new housing units by 2031. To monitor progress in meeting the housing pledge, city staff will bring an annual report to Council, to be forwarded to the province, which tracks the development industry’s ability to bring housing units to market. The first monitoring report will be received in 2024.

The AHS builds on work the city has previously undertaken, including the adoption of a variety of planning and financial tools to support growth, intensification, and a diversity of housing types, including policies and regulations in the city’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law to permit a range of housing types and densities, and offering financial relief for non-market (subsidized) housing developments. Together, these initiatives have helped spur investment by the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in the creation of new market and nonmarket (subsidized) housing. In the last 10 years, the city has approved over $800,000 in grants to offset development charges and parkland fees, which has supported the creation of 220 affordable units.

“Since 2019, Council recognized the need to address the affordable housing crisis including initiatives in the 2019-2022 strategic plan. This strategy provides the city additional concrete steps it can take to work with the development community, non-profits and other orders of government to ensure more affordable and attainable housing is built,” said Mayor Dorothy McCabe. “Local governments alone cannot make meaningful progress. The federal and provincial governments must continue to work with us.”

The AHS contains 81 actions that the city will aim to implement over the next decade. Of those 81 actions, 59 can be integrated into current work plans without requiring additional resources. Given the number of new actions proposed for integration into current work plans, the pace of implementation may vary. The remaining 22 actions will require additional staffing resources and/or increased operational/capital funding.

The targets, goals and actions within the AHS are based on research, as well as feedback from individuals with lived experience, persons and organizations with significant housing development and operating expertise, and the general public. Community feedback was used in the development of the initial goals and actions as well as to validate the proposed actions.

The AHS recommends the development of policy objectives to achieve a minimum of 30 per cent of new ownership and rental housing in the city to be affordable to low and moderate income households and to incorporate this target into the city’s Official Plan in accordance with the direction set out in the Regional Official Plan. In addition, the policy should include objectives to achieve a minimum target of eight per cent of new housing units in the city to be subsidized units and a minimum target of 39 per cent of new housing units in the city to be rental units, by 2033.


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Tony Iavarone       
Director of Communications