WINDSOR, ONT. -- The ball is now rolling for an incentive program targeted at developers to create more affordable housing in the City of Windsor.

Council will discuss these measures the city is considering to shorten the affordable housing waiting list, which is currently sitting at more than 6,000 people.

It’s on the heels of a new Housing and Homeless Master Plan adopted by council in late 2019. The plan features aggressive goals to increase the city’s affordable housing stock by 30 per cent over the next decade.

“Housing and the availability of housing across housing of all levels but starting with affordable housing is probably one of the single biggest issues facing the community today,” says Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin, who requested the report.

According to the city’s housing and homelessness master plan, 6,500 people in Windsor currently can’t afford their homes. It also states 1,200 people will experience homelessness and 170 people are currently chronically or episodically homeless.

But the city can’t solve the problem alone. The affordable housing complex recently approved on Meadowbrook Lane features 145 units — but will cost various levels of government $39 million to build.

Council now has an opportunity to make a dent in those quickly climbing numbers and achieve goals laid out in the 10-year plan.

“We’ve seen that the incentives work. What we want is administration to go back, work with the housing and homelessness plan, and to figure out where those incentives need to be and what types of incentives need to spur the development of affordable housing,” says Bortolin. “For us to get to that 30 per cent mark, we need to be acting today and we need to have a long-term plan.”

A report going before council next Monday outlines the tools needed to make that happen.

“We’re presenting council with a range of incentives and opportunities they can look at through the implementation of a CIP to address the supply of affordable housing and hopefully increase it,” says Neil Robertson, the city’s manager of urban design.

The report outlines community improvement plan tools like tax increment financing grants, no-interest loans, development charge exemptions and the sale of municipal land at less than market value.

Other ideas like allowing secondary suites on existing properties, reduced parking minimums and public-private partnerships are also on the table.

Unlike other community improvement plans, this one will not be specific to one area or neighbourhood, but is instead intended to be rolled out city-wide.

“It’s actually probably a better scenario than trying to concentrate your affordable housing in one particular area,” Robertson says. “If you have incentives that make it attractive to do it all throughout the city then it’s probably a very good thing to do.”

If council receives the report Monday, it kicks off the process to create the official community improvement plan.