February 2022

What did City Council do?

Draft Affordable Housing Grant Program

As part of this Council’s commitment to doing our part to tackle the affordable housing crisis, Council received the initial draft of a new Affordable Housing Grant Program.  This program is intended to allocate funding to not-for-profits in order to create and/or retain affordable housing within the city.  The City of Waterloo currently has $500,000 in funding, with ongoing support of $100,000 every year.  This policy emerged after significant engagement with the public and with a variety of stakeholders.  A few of the recommendations are to focus on affordable rental, permanently affordable housing and to prioritize locations within nodes and corridors of the city.  This program should be approved in its final form later this year and is a piece of the puzzle as we are also looking to complete a thorough affordable housing policy for the whole city.

Asset Management – Climate Change – Buildings

I’ve spoken about asset management planning at the City in a number of my newsletters.  This month our buildings asset management planning was revised to accommodate a change in level of service.  Essentially, we are not satisfied with simply replacing buildings or building components in a like-for-like manner as this will not help us achieve the complementary goal of achieving our GHG emissions reduction targets.  In addition to ensuring that building failures (such as roofing, HVAC units or pertaining to the building envelope itself) are flagged earlier in their remaining life span we are also adopting a ‘modern equivalent’ policy for replacement, to align with our climate goals.  This would include things like replacing natural gas boilers with electric, replacing decorative street lights with LED and replacing certain sidewalks with Multi-Use Paths.  The financial implications of this policy change are to increase our annual infrastructure gap by approximately $530,000 in this asset class.

Parks Funding Release – New Dog Park!

Council approved funding for new parks projects across the City.  These budgeted projects include funding for Waterloo Park (East-West trail crossings and Bauer Lot upgrades), Urban Forestry strategy and succession plan updates.  In the West end, this also includes the funding for the dog park in the West Side Employment Lands!  That project is expected to have a public engagement component in the near future, with construction beginning this fall.  This is a sorely needed infrastructure piece for the entire west end of the City and I’m excited to have a home for our four-legged friends to frolic and play without having to drive across the City!

535 Quiet Place, Sidewalk Policy Update, Investment Policy Update, Informal 70 King

Additionally, Council updated the sidewalk policy as well as the investment policy for the city.  A development application was approved for 535 Quiet Place and an informal meeting took place for a revised development application at 70 King Street North.  If anyone would like to chat further about these or any other topic, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Outside of the Council Chambers

In February I (virtually) attended the Southern Ontario Growth Conference as well as a webinar from the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.  The themes of these two conferences were related to how our forthcoming Official Plan reviews (Regionally and at the City) can balance the needs of a growing region with the need to prevent urban sprawl and protect our farmland and rural-urban fabric.  At the same time, how we balance that with the housing affordability crisis and our broader greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were also discussed.  An interesting discussion that emerged was around what percentage of homes are forecasted in the Region to be singles/semi-detached vs. apartments and other denser housing.  In 2006 our forecast was 60% of new homes to be singles/semis, but actual builds over that time are approximately 34%.  Ensuring our new plans reflect what is actually happening would be valuable.  Recurring themes surrounding gentle density, without just building towers and sprawling were also prevalent.  Permitting secondary units, laneway homes, tiny homes, by right low density upzoning for duplexes and other softer intensification are necessary not only for the City to continue to grow in a sustainable manner, but also to help tackle the affordable housing crisis.

Take care, stay safe and get vaccinated!