Businesses in Kingston may soon be able to build housing on their own premises to accommodate employees, according to the city’s mayor.
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson made the announcement at the annual State of the City event organized by the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. The event provides a look at the year ahead with remarks from the mayor as well as provincial and federal officials.
“With a tight housing market, it can take time to find more permanent housing,” Paterson said at the event. “Being able to offer perhaps temporary accommodation for a period of weeks or months could be of real assistance to businesses.”
The proposed policy framework is in response to employers who reached out to City Hall suggesting the idea as a way to help attract and retain staff.
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The mayor also announced that the city intends to make it easier for St. Lawrence College and Queen’s University to build student residences on their properties; expand city-supported shelter spaces; and acquire several local properties for the purpose of converting them into supportive housing.
These initiatives, among others, roll up into what Paterson calls “the most aggressive housing target in the city’s history.”
“We really need all three levels of government to work together to be able to advance supportive housing,” he said.
Utilities Kingston CEO David Fell noted that funding support would be needed to decarbonize existing utilities and meet Kingston’s aggressive population growth target of 220,000 residents by 2051, with its associated growth in housing and infrastructure. Kingston is served by Utilities Kingston, as well as Enbridge and Hydro One.
Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen hinted that the city would soon hear about its application to the federal housing accelerator fund. Kingston had applied for $65 million in exchange for the construction of 1,580 additional housing units and a loosening of various zoning rules.
Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu noted that Kingston is among a small number of municipalities in Ontario that is on track to reach its provincial housing target. Kingston achieved 1,131 housing starts in 2023, exceeding the goal of 800 and maintaining enough momentum to achieve its goal of 8,000 starts by 2031.
Mayor Paterson also hinted that an update on the city’s proposed downtown conference centre would be coming later this year. He pledged an update on expanded rural and regional transit options intended to support workers commuting into Kingston from neighbouring municipalities, and signalled the city’s intent to purchase additional electric buses with federal support.
Other possible projects for 2024 include a downtown deep-water cruise dock, part of a broader development that is working its way through the city’s development processes; and a 1,600-unit housing development on a 37-acre brownfield site, which is the subject of an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing later this month.
No mention was made of restoring VIA Rail service to pre-pandemic levels, or the return of any carriers to the Kingston Airport.