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Region of Waterloo considers putting affordable housing over parking lots


Councillors with the Region of Waterloo will be voting on a motion to build affordable housing on top of parking lots.

It was an idea that Cambridge council already rejected in December, while the City of Kitchener supported the proposed plan.

Regional council has now asked staff to report back on any city-owned land that could be used for potential housing developments.

Motion from the Region of Waterloo

Regional Councillor Pam Wolf admitted the housing crisis isn’t getting any better, with the average wait time at more than seven years.

“We have 8,341 applicants on our waitlist at the moment,” Wolf told CTV News, ahead of Wednesday night’s council meeting.

She said the motion she’s putting forward is slightly different than what the version presented to Cambridge and Kitchener councils.

“The region doesn’t own a great deal of parking lots. So that’s why we added vacant land, and repurposing buildings,” she explained.

Wolf said the parking lots won’t necessarily be lost.

“They’re not used at night. When you put affordable housing on a parking lot many of the people who live in affordable housing can’t afford to drive,” she said.

If the motion is approved, council will get a report that includes feasible locations, land and building ownership options, as well as construction concepts and potential partners.

Habit for Humanity weighs in

Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo Region is in the business of building affordable housing.

The CEO backs the parking lot idea.

“Things are really bad right now. The housing affordability is out of control,” Philip Mills said.

He added that innovative solutions are a must as it’s clear that what we’re doing now isn’t working.

“We need to be open to anything and everything to try and get the housing market and housing crisis under control,” Mills said.

Support for the idea

Citizens for Cambridge were advocating for Cambridge to pass the motion. Even though they didn’t, the organization isn’t giving up.

“There were concerns about the capacity of staff to do the work necessary,” said group member, Dan Clements, about the Cambridge vote.

He feels parking lots could be put to better use.

“We have this vast wasteland of asphalt,” he explained.

Dan Driedger, from Beyond Housing, said he’s glad to see the motion is still being debated.

“I am glad it didn’t just die in Cambridge because it’s something that the region can take leadership on. The Region of Waterloo is the service provider for affordable housing,” Driedger said. “It’s a big crisis and there’s not just one solution.”

Housing over parking lots isn’t an entirely new concept.

At the end of 2022, the region announced new affordable housing projects, which included designs that showed units over parking lots.

Wednesday’s meeting will be the first step in the process of getting staff to see if the idea would be feasible. Top Stories

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