June 2024

What did City Council do?

I hope everyone has a wonderful summer.  June was a super busy month for Council, so let’s jump right into it.

St. Moritz Park Funding Release

As part of our Parkland Strategy Implementation, Council approved the funding release to reimagine St. Moritz Park as a Community Hub Park for the west end of Waterloo.  The City will be investing more than $1.5M into the park, which is very exciting for everyone in Clair Hills and beyond.  The timeline is to do some consulting work this Spring, with community engagement to follow in the Fall.  A concept will be selected early next year, detailed plans and tendering of the project will occur next Summer, with construction intended to be completed in Summer of 2026.  I am extremely excited to see what this significant community investment will look like to create a new gathering space for people across the west end of the City.

2024 Asset Management Plan

I always look forward to reviewing our annual Asset Management Plan update.  Although the numbers are always challenging to digest, I abide by the motto that ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ and I greatly value the insights and hard work that go into the analysis of our assets.  Asset management is a legislated requirement that helps the city plan with a data driven approach to prioritize repair and upgrade of our assets.  The City of Waterloo are leaders amongst our peers for asset management, with many city’s looking to us for inspiration.  Here are some of the high level statistics from this year’s plan:

  • The City of Waterloo owns nearly $4 Billion in assets!
  • We currently spend $31.505 Million per year on funding our assets.
  • The current infrastructure deficit (or gap) needed to keep our assets in their current state would be $54.31 Million more in funding per year.

There are 16 asset classes that make up the $4 Billion, ranging from Transportation to Forestry to Fire and Fleet.  The largest asset class by far is Transportation, which has a value of $1.122 Billion, with an annual funding gap of $23 Million.  The next four asset classes combine for a value of $2.463 Billion, with an annual funding gap of $27.4 Million and include Facilities, Stormwater, Water and Sanitary.

Closing that infrastructure gap is something that the City has been tackling for a number of years through modest above inflation tax increases.  While this has increased the amount of funding spent on our assets, price escalations and improvements in data continue to highlight the significant shortfall needed.  The City, alongside many of our colleagues across the country has also been advocating for a new municipal growth framework to help tackle these financial challenges we all face.  While we can make decisions at the local level to narrow the gap, we will need more and consistent funding from higher levels of government to truly tackle this issue.

Indoor Community Space Strategy

Council approved the City of Waterloo’s new Indoor Community Space Strategy.  This strategy provides us with a 10 year road map for our current indoor spaces and has 60 recommendations to be used as guideposts to be integrated into our forthcoming Sports, Recreation and Leisure Strategy.  The strategy looked at 13 current facilities, including; RIM Park, Moses Springer, Albert McCormick, Waterloo Rec Centre and more.  The key themes that emerged from the report were around adding amenities and diverse programming, creating more welcoming and comfortable spaces, updating aging facilities and improving accessibility.  The recommendations included Policy and Organizational Recommendations, such as; reducing the institutional feel of facilities, more universal and gender neutral washrooms, up to date technology and increasing the level of accessibility.  The next set of recommendations looked at specific facilities and their needs, such as; more change rooms at RIM Park, resurfacing the track at WMRC, redeveloping the Rink in the Park to a multi-use facility and exploring the feasibility of covering the pool and/or adding another ice pad at Moses Springer.  Lastly, the final set of recommendations looked at future needs.  This section analyzed municipal comparators for things like ice pads, gymnasiums, indoor pools and more, alongside usage data and trends.  These recommendations include things like; the need for a new indoor pool, ice pad and gymnasium (by 2041), the need for an arts & creative industries space and the need for more facilities in the west end of the City.  These plans help drive action and funding over time and I am excited to see how the vision can be put into action.

2022 Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While Council has been tackling our own corporate GHG emissions, we have also endorsed a plan alongside our municipal counterparts in the Region to tackle our community emissions as well (https://dashboard.climateactionwr.ca/).  We received an update with our 2022 community emissions data, which shows that we are making some progress, but concludes that incremental change will be insufficient to meet our goal of reducing emissions 50% by 2030.  The latest data shows that we have reduced our emissions 12% as compared to our 2010 baseline.  While this does not set us up to meet our targets, we should celebrate this reduction as it is an absolute reduction, even in the face of significant population increases.  The key takeaway from this report is that the City of Waterloo and all residents need to be laser focused on two areas.  The first is transportation, which makes up 47% of our emissions.  65% of our transportation emissions are from passenger vehicles, with the rest from non-passenger fleet and buses.  We need bold actions in this space to drastically increase public transportation, active transportation (cycling and walking) and prepare ourselves for the electric vehicle transformation.  The second takeaway is buildings, which make up 45% of our emissions (the remaining 8% are agriculture at 6% and waste at 2%).  40% of our building emissions are from residential buildings.  We need bold actions to encourage residences to improve their building envelope and switch to low carbon fuels for water and space heating.  We also need to implement High Performance Development Standards to ensure that new buildings are as energy efficient as possible.

Rental Housing Review

Council initiated a review of Rental Housing Regulations in the City.  This is a multi-pronged approach that looks at our current rental licensing program, researches licensing for short-term rentals, looks at mid to high rise safety inspection programs, considers allocating a portion of our affordable housing reserve to tenant supports and explores an eviction regulation program.  The current program was implemented in 2012 to improve safety and ensure property standards for low rise rental housing and has not been reviewed since 2017.  Throughout this review we are approaching it from an affordable housing lens.  Outcomes may include looking at reducing the floor area ratio requirement for low rise rentals alongside the other considerations noted above.  Staff are hoping to have something back for Council consideration for implementation later this year.

Official Plan Review Launch

Council initiated the launch of our long awaited City Official Plan (OP) review, in line with the latest Provincial regulations and Regional Official Plan.  The OP is a long term policy document and is the strategic document for planning across the City of Waterloo.  There are three priority areas of focus for this revision, with the first being facilitating more housing in our community and refining the urban form through a review of our nodes and corridors plan, height and density plan and through inclusionary zoning.  The second area of focus is to encourage compact and complete communities, through mixed use permissions, updating commercial/employment policies and encouraging the principles of 15 minute communities.  Lastly, we are looking to streamline and clarify a variety of policies through this process.  Some of the proposed changes to our plan include changing height rules away from meters to number of storeys, allowing up to 30 storeys in our Major Transit Station Areas, removing maximum densities, looking at minor corridor expansions and creating a new minor neighbourhood corridor designation.  The city of waterloo will need to accommodate 185,000 residents (excluding our post-secondary students) and nearly 115,000 jobs by 2051.  This will necessitate 15,232 new units by 2031 and 23,755 new units by 2051.  To find more information out about the OP and to leave your feedback, check out the EngageWR page below.


Property Tax Exemption for Affordable Housing

Council approved a property tax exemption for affordable housing.  This will apply to units at 80% of average market rate, where 30% of the total units (minimum 6 total units) are guaranteed to be affordable for 60 years.  The impact of this property tax exemption is massive for those living in affordable housing and has the impact of shifting approximately $406,000 onto other properties, or approximately a 0.4% increase.

Inclusionary Zoning

After many years of consultation and review, Council finally approved our Inclusionary Zoning policy.  This inclusionary zoning policy requires new developments in Major Transit Station Areas (MTSA) to set aside a certain amount of units dedicated for affordable housing.  Depending on the market conditions of the MTSA the amount will start small, between 1 and 2% and increase up to 5% by as early as 2029.  This is the only tool that municipalities have to require developers to build affordable units.  It is the role of the planning department when it comes to regulation is to ensure that the built form of our community is meeting community objectives and I cannot think of a more pressing community objective right now than tackling the affordability crisis.  While Inclusionary Zoning is not a silver bullet, it does have the benefit of not only creating new affordable units in our community, but will also help build capacity within the development industry to support even more units and crucially will help promote inclusivity by ensuring that affordable units are not segregated, while also ensuring they are located near much needed amenities like public transit.

Other Council Business

In other Council business, we initiated a corridor expansion study for the Sugarbush South neighbourhood as part of our Housing Accelerator Fund program.  We approved the expansion of the Eby Farm Accessible Playground in Waterloo Park, as well as the design award for the new Beaver Creek Road pumping station design.  We received a number of financial reports, including our preliminary 2024 surplus report, year-end capital funding report and 2023 financial statements.  We also approved a grant application for a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund grant to study GHG reductions in some of our smaller facilities.  We also saw a development application at 170-200 Northfield Drive, which in its current state contemplates over 4,000 housing units across 13 different towers across the street from the Northfield Ion station.  If you’d like to discuss any of these items in more detail, don’t hesitate to reach out.

In The Community

June was Pride month and I was excited to attend a variety of pride events including, Tri-Pride in Victoria Park and a drag show on Princess Street called Queens on Princess.  Queens on Princess was hosted by Cowboys and Angels, with all proceeds from the event going to SPECTRUM.  It was wonderful to see so many community members of all ages at these events.  The Friends of Waterloo Park hosted a ‘Summer Start’ event and it was so awesome to see how vibrant and bustling with activity the park is at this time of year.  Hopefully you had a chance to check out this year’s Service Centre Open House at the Waterloo Service Centre.  It was a great event and a chance to check out the facility and experience rides on different city trucks, face painting and activities and more.  It is a great event every year.  I was honoured to represent the City at my alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier University as they opened the new Savvas Chamberlain Music Center.  I had the privilege of attending a Community Conversation event hosted by Mayor McCabe, with a focus on Climate Change.  There was a lot of thoughtful discussion and a gathering of climate experts across our community discussing community and corporate plans and building momentum and making connections for the work needed in this space.  I also had the privilege of attending a Housing For All summit, hosted by the Region of Waterloo.  Again, this was a gathering of housing experts across the community, with a number of strong keynote speakers and breakout sessions.  I took away a lot of great information that I will take with me to my Council role in the coming years.  The Region hosted an all-council gathering for elected officials at the Regional, City and Township tiers to discuss forthcoming changes to hospital care in the Region as well as the new plans for the rollout of waste collection in the Region.  Finally, I attended a Coalition of Muslim Women’s event where they unveiled their annual ‘Snapshot of Hate in Waterloo Region’ report and marked the third anniversary of the tragic killing of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario.

I hope everyone has a great summer.  Take care and please reach out if you’d like to connect to discuss anything further.