I do not, not for housing in Kingston.
Our Mayor’s Task Force on Housing used the term, “A Housing Affordability Crisis” to describe where we were last year. Things have not gotten better.
Here are five points about housing in Kingston today:
1. The housing situation is not improving. One indicator is the fact that this summer, after the initial shock of the pandemic hit, average prices of residences have increased about 15% from a year ago while residential inventory on the market is at a low. This is partly because of the lack of supply and increased demand, and partly because of lower interest rates. This indicator does not directly reflect the situation for lower income households, but it doesn't offer any hope either.
The following figures apear on the Kingston and Area Real Estate Association website:
2. Visible tent communities should be a political wake-up call. The tent community at Belle park this summer was a visible reminder of the harsh housing market as well as the need to improve social support structures, but we should not be surprised by it. Tent communities have popped up in other cities in the region. And, with very little effort while I was doing research for the Task Force, I was able to hear about Kingstonians living in tents in Woodhaven, Montreal Street near the train tracks, John Machin Park, deeper within Belle Park and even a backyard near Princess and MacDonnell. These are real people who need homes in their price range, and social supports, whatever they may be.
3. Building enough affordable housing requires public funding. This conclusion is not a political statement -- it is based on looking at numbers behind the economics of building housing in Kingston today. This is what the Mayor’s Task Force did through a study of an actual affordable development in Kingston and a separate consultant’s financial viability analysis for different parts of the City. In the longer term, land use policy changes are needed to increase housing supply. For affordable housing, right now, public funding is needed.
4. Recovering means innovating. To recover from the pandemic, rebuilding our economy and our society, will require us to invent and innovate - we can’t just go backwards, right? One innovative way of building housing quickly is to use modular, factory-built, housing. The Housing Task Force noted that modular affordable housing was quickly built by an Alberta company, Horizon North, for flood victims in Grand Forks, B.C. Another company which built modular factory-built housing in London, England produced housing 20-40% below market prices. In Vancouver, a plan to build 98 units of temporary modular housing to address their homeless crisis was announced in August.
5. We need to be able to act as quickly as possible. The City of Victoria, considering the use of temporary modular housing, says in its housing strategy that Victoria should, “streamline development processes so they can be operational as soon as possible.” Separate from this modular housing idea, there was word in the news recently of a new federal program to help cities acquire distressed properties for affordable housing. A crucial aspect of this program is how to roll it out and provide shelter before winter comes.