In his annual State of the City address, on Thursday November 9, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic made several new announcements, including new incentives to build affordable housing in the city.
Starting in 2024, the city of Kitchener, with the help of the federal government, will offer incentives to to build not-for-profit, supportive, and affordable rentals or affordable coops units. The initiative is meant to help construct more than 500 new affordable housing units and will cost over $5 million. These incentives consist of matching grants at $5,000 per unit to subsidize early-stage development costs. No-interest loans of an additional $5,000 per unit will also be available from the city. The mayor said more information will be release about this new initiative over the next few weeks.
This housing announcement comes on the heels of the previous announcement by Federal Minister Sean Fraser that $42.4 million of funding from the Government of Canada’s Housing Accelerator fund will fast track the construction of 1200 new local homes by early 2027. See the announcement here.
The Housing Accelerator Fund was launched by the Federal government in March of this year to assist municipalities to increase the housing supply.
The Mayor told the crowd how Minister Fraser noted that Kitchener has the most significant growth rate of any Housing Accelerator Community in Canada, of which there are about 500.
Other announcements the Mayor made in his address include changes to the community centre model to reflect changing and more diverse neighbourhoods and to help newcomers become more connected to community. The mayor talked about the city’s efforts to build a creative and ideas hub downtown and also announced a new relationship structure between the city and local performing arts organizations. This new structure consists of the city playing a larger part in the operations and promotions of the performing arts groups in order to boost tourism.
The mayor listed ongoing environmental goals such as increasing the tree canopy to 30% in all neighbourhoods by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, namely by converting city-owned combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. He also noted plans to add a major new park near the Grand River, but did not provide additional details.
Despite talking in depth about housing, the idea hub, the environment and changes to community centres and the relationship with performing arts venues, the Mayor did not talk about the affordability or growing homelessness crises.
The ceremony was held at the Kitchener Market and featured videos with residents and each of the councillors talking about what has been accomplished in the past year.
Listen to the story above