Cambridge alternative housing project gets green light by regional councillors to move ahead

The region will begin looking for a developer interested in building alternative housing in Cambridge as a way to provide more affordable housing options. Meanwhile, a project in Waterloo will be delayed until more details can be provided.

Waterloo affordable housing project put on hold as councillors seek more details

As many as 12 tiny homes have been set up at Kitchener's LOT42 area. A new project by the region will see 'alternative housing' go at 161 Bechtel St. in Cambridge. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

The region will move forward with a plan to find someone to build alternative housing in Cambridge.

The property at 161 Bechtel St., is a Waterloo Region Housing site. On Wednesday, regional councillors voted in favour of moving forward with a plan to seek expressions of interest from private and not-for-profit groups to build housing on the site.

Alternative housing is considered to be self-contained residences that are made with often pre-fabricated designs or "non-traditional construction methods," a staff report said, such as tiny homes or spaces built from shipping containers.

Tiny homes were recently created in Kitchener, and other agencies such as The Working Centre have built "bunkie" shelters from shipping containers.

The region will ask whomever builds the units to ensure they are rented at below average market levels or can be purchased at an affordable price and will look for housing that creates mixed-income property.

Cambridge regional Coun. Helen Jowett said she would like to ensure some green space remains on the property. She said people in the community appear to be supportive of the project, but the lack of greenspace is a concern.

It is hoped a plan for what could go on the property will be brought back to councillors this fall.

During a special council meeting Wednesday evening, councillors also approved funding for work on two affordable housing projects: one on Kingscourt Drive in Waterloo and one on Wilson Avenue in Kitchener.

Waterloo affordable housing project delayed

A proposed affordable housing project in Waterloo on Beechwood Avenue, meanwhile, will be delayed for at least a month after councillors asked for a more detailed plan.

The 0.81 hectare property is at 555 Beechwood Drive. The land was the site of a pumping station until 2016, when the station was demolished. In 2005, the City of Waterloo changed the zoning on the property to allow for a six storey building as well as other commercial uses.

During a committee meeting on Wednesday, several neighbours expressed concerns about a proposed high-density, affordable housing apartment building that could go on the property, which is currently used as a greenspace by the people living in the area. Some said they were unaware the city had changed the zoning for the property.

Ray Pearce said he lives across from the property and he has lived in the neighbourhood for more than 30 years.

"I've watched the neighbourhood change, I've watched the density grow and we've adapted to the changes. But now we're into something different," he said, expressing concern over the size of an apartment building in an area with largely single detached homes.

"We're not opposed to affordable housing. What we're opposed to is a six-story, very, very large apartment building sitting in our front yard," he said.

"I don't care if affordable housing is built. Just have it fit with the neighbourhood."

Housing wait list trending upwards

Judy-Ann D'Aguilar, who said she has lived in the neighbourhood for more than 20 years, said the greenspace is used by families.

"Every day you will see children playing sports, children flying kites, people walking dogs," she said. 

D'Aguilar said the proposed affordable housing apartment building would impact their property values and would cause increases to noise levels in the area, traffic and crime.

Tom Haapanen of Kitchener also spoke and said while he doesn't live in the area, the lack of affordable housing is a regional problem.

He noted there are thousands of people waiting for affordable housing.

"These are people, not just members of a list. They're real people who need housing," he said.

Ryan Pettipiere, director of housing services for the Region of Waterloo, said the wait list for affordable housing is between three and eight years, depending on what a family needs. He noted the wait list has "trended upwards" in recent years.

Councillors agreed to declare the land as surplus to allow them to put affordable housing on the property.

Before staff can seek requests for proposals, though, Coun. Sean Strickland asked regional staff to provide more information about the project including the number of units, details about how many units will be low income, the height of the building and the impact on greenspace. Strickland also asked for a neighbourhood communications strategy.

That information is expected to be brought before councillors during the August committee meeting.


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