Notes and Videos Waterloo Candidates, October 14

Waterloo Municipal Meet the Candidates 2018

Notes and Videos Meet the Candidates Waterloo

October 14, 2018

Affordable Housing 

What will it take? We're building expensive buildings alongside LRT and people are losing housing uptown. No affordable housing is being built into new developments, and we cannot have ghetto areas in the city. The city has not made moves to make Affordable Housing.   

How does the Region work with Cities to ensure affordable housing is being built? Can the Region help apply inclusionary zoning? Cambridge has ideas, e.g., taxes on vacant land deferred. Developers can afford to build Affordable Housing, and the municipalities can provide rent supplements. Non-profits are helping as well. There are issues in private rental housing. There's housing available but how does the bylaw help? Is fire safety inspection mandatory? People were dying in unsafe housing.


  What have we got so far? A surplus of student housing; development of one-bedroom units while we need homes for families; Currently we face a constant increase in rents. The regional master plan has to be passed after the election, including putting affordable housing in Regional hands. More collaboration with the volunteer community who are helping the homeless and people seeking adequate housing. We need to subsidize current units and build more affordable homes. There is more land owned by the city on which we can build. Affordable housing has to stay in public hands. The Region can be a leader in building affordable housing. 2 500 units built since 2000, and 500 more planned in the next four years. The Region needs to work with developers and give grants up to $25 000 to help people convert parts of their homes for rental. More collaboration with community partners.  

The Waitlist for affordable housing can go as long as over seven years. Advocacy regarding the development of affordable housing is needed. Municipal representatives’ voices need to be louder speaking to MPPs and MPs. Better communication with developers and residents. Why do we bother with zoning if it's just ignored? There needs to be an autonomous citizen committee to advise future development. 

 

Intensification 

People feel like their concerns are not being heard re: intensification. There is a balance between intensification and ‘holding the line.’ It is about making spaces for families, mixed-use, affordable housing. Too much housing is being built on the high end. We need more developments like “options for homes.” LRT needs to happen as quickly as possible so Cambridge can be developed. Projects should be completed sustainably, balanced with the environment.

 

Elimination of Homelessness 

Need supports, addiction counselling, etc. as well as the rent supplement programs. It is a big challenge, and we need provincial $ as well, because it may not be a priority for the provincial government. 

Leverage funding from all partners. The waiting list for affordable housing is growing, and provision is inadequate. Not as simple as bricks & mortar: we need supports, active partners. 

Currently, we do not have adequate services to help people transition from homelessness to affordable housing. There are not enough funding or outreach workers. We need to understand more about the conditions of homelessness to have the right kinds of interventions. Who is better placed, professionals or volunteers to work with the homeless? No one wants to be homeless, it is not the individual’s fault, A wide spectrum of homelessness exists from short to long-term, but people only have access to emergency health services, etc.  

Most people (90%) want a hand up, not hand out. Chronic homelessness & addiction are often linked to past trauma. They need therapy and supports. Brick and mortar needed AND integrated community support to not be in warehouses, tent cities or in slums. There is no “one size fits all” solution, there is no typical homeless person. Take time to learn and not stereotype. We need to move away from the charity model and transform social structures with a social justice model of supports. It takes more than a big heart. In the case of Out of the Cold, it only left volunteers burnt out in the long run and the homeless living in survival mode. 

 

Traffic & Cycling 

Active Transportation Plan calls for 600km of cycling and pedestrian routes, and Active Transportation is in the Regional capital budget. We need better communication among the stakeholders. Older areas of the city have narrow streets, but we cannot take away roads to replace it with bike infrastructure. Or, we need a better plan to cross the city and the region on a bike. We need maps showing routes from north Waterloo to south Kitchener, east/west corridors. 

Behind Conestoga Mall, there are green paint lanes. It is not clear how they are to be used.  Coordinating the cycling infrastructure remains a challenge. Bike lanes in Waterloo look like parking strips in Kitchener. Signage at intersections refers to websites: cyclists can't surf the Internet on bikes. If instructions are needed, it's an indication that the intersection isn't designed correctly. Cycling lanes end abruptly.  

Regarding roundabouts - Is there any consultation between the Region and the Cities? The concerns remain about areas near schools and pedestrian safety. No-one has ever been killed in a roundabout; they're the safest thing because they slow the traffic and crossing guards have been added to roundabouts. Need 4-way lighted signals at all four entrances/exits to the roundabout (all go on at the same time)? 

There is a lot of stories about bicycles and vehicles sharing the roads. Public consultation is important, so planners do not miss things that are important to residents. Narrow, bumpy streets are safe, but drivers don't like traffic calming. Speed bumps can be too close to each other, or only at the ends of the street. Over time, people become more accepting of traffic calming measures. 

Downtown driving is difficult. Suggestion: close King Street between Bridgeport and William, focus on pedestrian/bike traffic. Make it space where people want to go.

 

Public Transit 

 

Public transit is important for newcomers and persons on a low income. They depend on it. GRT bus passes too expensive. Post-secondary students could pay more for bus passes. Suggestion: try free GRT rides at specific, non-peak hours. Need even more reduced bus pass for seniors. 

Transit between KW and Toronto is not good (both public transit and driving). We need to ensure two way all day GO and rail electrification. Or, how do we make Waterloo Region a place where people don’t need to go to Toronto? 

Rural areas have very poor transit connectivity. Check out “solutions to poverty” program by Cambridge Social Planning Council. Kiwanis area had a 6-month pilot with free accessible busing – a model to investigate.  

Grand River Transit in need of major improvements. The Region approved the Transportation Master Plan three months ago which includes server and website platform upgrades. The app is poor, and the website doesn't work on small devices.  

Regional transit moved from Hub-and-Spoke route plan to a Grid pattern, e.g., iXpress routes connecting to LRT backbone. New alternatives include things like  On-Demand bus service or Uber. The plan to link ION to all-day GO trains. It would be good to have one app for GO, VIA, Uber, and taxis.

 

Light Rail Transit 

When is it going to be operational? The LRT lateness is due to Bombardier.  There has been too much disruption during the construction and installation of the LRT. Constantly tearing up concrete and putting it back. How much money has been spent on repairs already? Lots of infrastructure changes (water, sewer, hydro) paid for by Provincial and Federal contributions; would not have happened without the LRT. 

The Regional has done a reasonably good job in the budget. At the same time, some say that too much was paid for construction work and that public/private partnerships resulted in poor use of resources.  There needs to be coordination between installing infrastructure and rails (avoid 2x road tear up). 

When extending the LRT to Cambridge, we hope the Region doesn't repeat the same mistakes. We need better communication with property owners. Perhaps there should be a regional tax break for affected businesses.  

Will the LRT fare be less than the cost of driving? We will not be getting people out of cars if fare is higher. We need to balance other reasons for using cars less, such as environmental reasons, well-being and encourage safe bike lanes. Also, we need low/no fare for economically disadvantaged as it is done in other jurisdictions.  

Waterloo region airport should be connected to ION

 

Environmental sustainability 

How does environmental sustainability relate to Region? Preservation of the Green Belt; province to extend Green Belt area to Waterloo Region. Waterloo Region standards are already higher than other jurisdictions. We cannot let our standards be lowered, but instead, have to help that other standards will be raised to our levels.  

What mechanisms exist to promote environmental sustainability? We need a constructive voice to advocate with the Province. Need to have provincial government hear our concerns and new MPPs need to hear from the residents. 

What can the Region do about the salt in the groundwater? People are throwing a lot of salt for defrosting, and the Region did an audit of business' salt usage. The salt runoff goes to the pumping station at William and Regina Streets. Region asked to have contractors minimize salt usage, but insufficient salt brings the danger of people slipping and falling, and lawsuits. 

There are "Smart Salt" courses for contractors, but they are not mandatory. Not even the Region staff or snow plow operators follow Smart Salt guidelines. Policy needed at the city level too. 

We have to be firm to preserve the countryside Line. The Countryside Line has been in the Regional Official Plan since about 2009. We do not have a lot of lands left for growth, and we need smart growth. Erbsville Road, Ira Needles, Wilmot Line, Benjamin Road, Grand River all part of the Countryside Line. 

We have to remain mindful about the traffic and access to subdivisions. The LRT helps build up, not out. People don't want urban sprawl, but don't want high-rises in their neighbourhood either. It is a contradiction yet to be resolved.  

Province sets urban densities in the "Places to Grow Act." 

We want to see some true environmental stewardship, where a decision is made to prioritize the environment over the business.

 

Green Space  

"Green to Grey" (https://greytogreenconference.org/), green space is necessary for physical and mental health. It is in the best interest of the community. Cities have a point system "density bonus," and affordable housing can be built by flexible building codes to include green areas. It is a challenge for vertical communities, as well as, getting people to connect and building community. Participatory budgeting is being tested with folks getting together to decide how to spend money in park redevelopment projects.  

We need to save trees in the urban landscape. Shrubbery decreases anxiety. Citizens are concerned regarding keeping it green not grey. Developments shouldn’t be able to break zoning bylaws. 

 

Public Spaces 

Waterloo has few community centres. We can incorporate them in new development high rises and use school facilities more. 

 

Taxation 

A larger percent of tax money still goes towards services for people with higher incomes than low incomes. Example, the motor vehicle infrastructure serves those who have cars or businesses. 

 

Community Information  

Finding the right information and making connections is still difficult. Social Development Centre’s Community Information Service used to be the place to compile information about services and supports and publish different types of information resources. 

Today, despite the multiple channels for communication, like municipal or provincial call centres and Google, individuals still need personal and hands-on supports in finding the right information. Because the Community Information Centre seems to be this the only general service of this type in the past, we are not in the age of complex systems requiring a connected approach among different information providers to make seamless connections. We still need persons who can listen to the asks and needs, and we need to learn to connect different information providers through partnerships. However, that ongoing work in the community requires core funding for non-profits. Many groups provide a range of supports, but it is difficult to do that for free. Volunteer burn out, and vulnerability is present. More formalized partnership structures are needed. Citizens themselves can be armed with information, too, to help connect people with services.  

 

Governance 

Elected officials could have an open-door policy. Do not pent up citizen’s demands and lots of good ideas!  Lack of diversity in municipal politics in WR – need democracy to be representative of our community. 

We need more communication from the ROW, understanding what decisions are being made and what responsibilities the different elected representatives hold.  

Suggestion: more events like this, more frequently. We need more information, more public forums, communication between representatives and citizens. We need to be mindful of the fact that not everyone uses the internet. 

How do we make ‘committees’ more inviting, so that people join them? Teach kids early about democratic engagement – initiatives like Student Vote are great.

 

Permanent Residents and Voting 

Citizenship requirements are changing, making it easier for people to become citizens. Previously, citizenship used to be expensive and quite inaccessible for certain groups. There seems to be some racism in who is considered an ‘immigrant.’