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Grassroots group advocating for affordable housing alternatives in Waterloo Region

'Waterloo Region Yes in My Backyard' is trying to connect groups to have engaging discussions around zoning law changes and affordable housing alternatives
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A new grassroots group in Kitchener is working to change the narrative around affordable housing in Waterloo Region by urging governments to change the planning rules. 

Melissa Bowman, a member of 'Waterloo Region Yes in My Backyard,' said on Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke, the group is looking to connect stakeholders and ideas to find a worthwhile solution for affordable housing options.

"I'm looking at how we make a variety of housing available throughout the city and filling in the missing middle." says Bowman. 

Bowman says in order to engage all stakeholders within the issue, WRYIMB will attempt to connect individuals in a way that hasn't been done in the past.

Something that isn't easy to do, she says, when it comes to talking about zoning regulations.

"When you get into all that stuff --supply, demand, homeowners and what housing is and what it could be-- it's a complicated discussion." says Bowman.

"Most people are interested in seeing what they can do, but when you pull out a 150 page document with 18 subsections, people's eyes begin to glaze over." 

According to Bowman, this is where WRYIMB comes in.

Although WRYIMB is fairly new, Bowman says each member has their own expertise on these alternatives, which helps to move the conversation forward and away from only focusing on the cost of affordable housing. 

Some of these options they're pushing for in affordable housing talks include rooming housing, secondary accessory housing and other low cost options.

"There's not one thing that's going to solve this issue," says Bowman, "that's why I really love this group, we're coming in with our own passions and interests and we're coming together to push this forward."

Besides sharing their ideas, WRYIMB is also pushing to have the ideas of those directly affected by affordable housing to be heard and shape the discussion.

"One thing our group is looking at is how can we make those discussions more accessible and engage with people who really are interested in the issue, but feel really distant and don't know how to connect." says Bowman.

"When you're trying to find affordable housing, you're not making time to check when the next proposal is due." 

Bowman says she has been having interesting conversations with all different stakeholders, which all bring interesting perspectives and solutions. 

Add in the work of community based programs bringing attention to this issue, like Union: Sustainable Development Co-operative and Waterloo Crossing, Bowman says all these things could bring new solutions into the affordable housing conversation.

"For a long time we've seen housing as an investment," says Bowman, "But I think there's more of an appetite now to see housing as a right."

"And if we're changing that perspective slowly, what does that look like? And that really changes where we put of energy and our focus."

To learn more about WRYIMB, click here to visit their Facebook page.


Ariel Deutschmann

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