Federal investment brings 26 more rapid housing units to Kitchener

By Luke Schulz

A sizable investment from the federal government is set to bring more units of supportive housing to the Region of Waterloo. 

At a news conference on Monday, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen announced the details of three of five new affordable housing projects in the region – to be supported by $6.6 million dollars in funding as part of the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative. 

The first two projects announced will be operated by the Working Centre in Kitchener, seeing the construction of 18 units of housing for newcomers to Canada and racialized individuals at 53 and 48 Queen Street South. 

In addition, non-profit organization YWCA KW will be operating 8 units for women and their children fleeing domestic violence, to be situated along Block Line Road in Kitchener. 

Speaking to those upcoming developments, Hussen said the units being offered to vulnerable members of our community will be built “within 12 months” of when applicants receive their funding – while also providing “good, well-paying jobs” in the housing and construction sector. 

The $6.6M in funding comes through phase two of the federal government's program – in addition to the previous investment of $8.2M that was provided to the Region of Waterloo in the program's first phase. According to Regional Chair Karen Redman, that funding was allocated to help in the creation of 29 new homes for those in precarious housing situations, or those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness – though the region surpassed that goal, building 47 new homes. 

The federal government's funding further supports the region's affordable housing plan, Building Better Futures: 2,500 Homes in 5 Years, as Redman said the goal continues to be aimed at increasing the amount of affordable housing built in the region from 50 homes a year to an average of 500 homes a year. 

“This year alone, 619 new homes are in development and 61 have already been occupied – and this is the first year of our plan,” said Redman. 

Minister Hussen emphasized that the region has now received “close to $20 million dollars in funding” from the first and second round of the federal program, with more details on “other projects” to come at a later date.

“Today's announcement builds on our previous commitments to Waterloo Region under the national housing strategy,” said Hussen. “This is a 10 year plan which will invest over $72.5B from coast to coast to coast to ensure that each and every Canadian has a safe, affordable place to call home.”

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic was also pleased to hear news of the funding, noting that the city remains committed to housing as a human right through its Housing for All strategy, noting that the municipality can't tackle the issue of homelessness alone. Vrbanovic said he's thankful to continue working alongside the region, community partners and the federal government, noting it'll continue to take “all orders of government and community partners” working together to end homelessness. 

“The City of Kitchener is particularly pleased to see the YW project go forward, as it makes more complete use of the $2.57M piece of property we provided as our part of the partnership with the Block Line Road project with the YW.” said Vrbanovic. “I'd like to add that, while we talk about these investments as housing investments (…) they're also investments in people; in their dignity and their quality of life, all of which is important.”

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