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Waterloo exploring potential MZO for new affordable housing project


The City of Waterloo is moving forward with a plan to try and rezone 25 acres of city-owned land near RIM Park to allow for affordable and attainable housing.

The property at 2025 University Ave. E. in Ward 4 is currently zoned for employment. The city purchase it in 1999 when building Rim Park, but it has remained a vacant open field since. Now the city wants to develop around 730 units on the property and is beginning the process to do so.

"This is an opportunity for Waterloo to really do our part, I think to overachieve in doing our part, to build more homes faster," Mayor Dorothy McCabe told the meeting.

A consultant estimates the property could support 480 stacked townhouses and 250 apartments.

At Monday’s meeting council gave staff the greenlight to begin consulting nearby homes and businesses about the rezoning and to explore the process of filing for a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO).

Staff said the project would represent more than half of Waterloo’s provincial housing target for 2024. The city has a deficit of approximately 3,460 affordable housing units, with an average of only 12 new units added per year between 2010 and 2022. This development would also help the city get closer to its target of 16,000 new residential units by 2031.

"Housing is not just bricks and mortar. It's about opportunities for families, individuals, seniors, youth of all socioeconomic backgrounds," McCabe said.

The Region of Waterloo only reviews employment lands every five to ten years. City staff said an MZO would avoid needing regional approval for rezoning.

Michelle Lee, senior policy planner with the City of Waterloo, said the goal is "not to circumvent the planning process, but rather to expedite the planning of this area and to allow us to consider, before the region’s review, a potential conversion of these lands."

Consultation will happen throughout May.

“There's going to be a lot of questions that individuals have about that,” Ward 4 Coun. Diane Freeman said. “In terms of informing the ministerial zoning order, it would be helpful to have a public meeting to just kind of help people understand."

In an email to CTV News, Waterloo Regional Chair Karen Redman said: “We are all deeply committed to building more affordable and attainable housing, and that requires partnership at all levels of government.”

Removing the employment land zoning will put the city under targets set out by the province, but staff believe there are other under-utilized areas of the city that can make up for that.

“We still think we can achieve our employment targets, which is ultimately the most important thing, achieving our employment targets, even with the conversion of these lands,” Lee said.

Council will decide on whether to submit the MZO near the end of May. If they do, and the MZO is approved, the city would like to see the development started quickly.

"Certainly the goal is to have the development partner chosen by December 2024, and following the design, to have shovels in the ground as early as possible in 2025," McCabe said.

Information is already available online on Engage Waterloo Region, where residents can make comments on the plan. Top Stories

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