Affordable & High-Quality Housing
Waterloo needs to build and protect affordable & high-quality housing so that everyone can live, work, study, and age comfortably and safely.
Waterloo should continue to allow for much-needed intensification along our urban nodes and corridors.
Intensification strategies such as tiny homes and lowered parking minimums should be considered near ION stations and major transit corridors.
Waterloo should evaluate how it can better support tenants’ rights and ensure that student residents also have affordable, safe housing.
How we can do it:
Housing is now the #1 issue for many people across Waterloo—you could be a young couple looking to start a family, a renter needing to find a new place to live, a homeowner looking to relocate, a student looking for a lease to get you through the term, or in any other unique circumstance. The city has released a discussion paper on our forthcoming Affordable Housing Strategy, and it's critical that the new City Council hits the ground running on the report's recommendations. Being able to afford a place to live that meets your needs and supports your well-being is fundamental to a healthy society and a human right.
One key issue within housing is ensuring that we have a diversity of housing—to provide high-quality housing for all, we need a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, rowhouses, multiplexes, short walk-ups, apartment buildings, and condo developments to meet the different needs of different people at different stages of their lives. Waterloo needs to modernize our zoning regulations to permit this diversity of housing—in particular the “missing middle” of low- and medium-rise housing that provides an affordable entry to multi-bedroom units and family-friendly forms to younger residents, new families, and low-income residents. Currently, over half of the residential land in Waterloo is zoned for only single detached homes, which is a barrier that Council has the ability to address in a thoughtful way.
Also important are strategies to address the homes in our communities that are currently vacant and could be housing families—Waterloo should investigate a vacant homes tax and explore what other cities have done to combat this problem so that we can have vibrant, populated neighbourhoods.
Waterloo should work to identify and implement methods of supporting non-profit housing that can provide and protect affordable housing stock. Non-profit housing provides key affordable housing without a profit motive, and it can provide affordable, high-quality housing to people of any background and income level, including families. City Council recently approved an Affordable Rental Housing Grant Program for non-profit organizations providing affordable housing units in Waterloo. In the future, the city’s support could also include development expertise, regulatory support, and direct investment—Waterloo should look at what works in other cities for inspiration.
Past City Councils have done well in permitting intensification of housing along major nodes and corridors in Waterloo that open up large swaths of housing in the urban core of Waterloo. The next City Council must continue to support housing development to provide housing to our residents while preventing urban sprawl and holding the country line.
Steps should also be taken to thoughtfully lower the costs of housing development by reducing some major limitations. Near ION stations and major public and active transit corridors, the city should reduce parking minimums to allow for more affordable developments. Additionally, secondary units and “tiny homes” should also be permitted with reduced parking minimums in these areas—something Kitchener has done to support mild intensification where it’s needed.
Student housing is a unique form of housing that Waterloo needs to also be mindful of—most students live in purpose-built student housing towers. Students regularly suggest that their rights as tenants are not respected by the large housing companies, and that costs are increasing quickly while supply lags, similar to the rest of the housing market. The city should explore what other jurisdictions have done to support large student populations and should consider how existing municipal programs and powers could be used to ensure tenants’ rights are respected.