Developer Amber Peak wants to change the cityscape in the University District.
On Oct. 3, City Council denied a motion for additional public input into a proposed development replacing the existing homes at Johnson and Aberdeen with a six storey, 45-unit building with a total of 120 bedrooms.
The building will include eight studios, five one-bedrooms, five two-bedrooms, 11 three-bedrooms, and sixteen four-bedrooms. The property is within walking distance of Princess St. and downtown Kingston.
On July 31, Fotenn Consultants Inc. submitted a report requesting minor variances for properties at 386 and 390 Johnson St., and 40 Aberdeen St., on behalf of Amber Peak Development.
According to the Report to the Committee of Adjustment, the proposed development goal is to promote increased supply and affordability of housing, but AMS Commissioner of External Affairs Julian Mollot-Hill said there’s no guarantee these units will be affordable.
“The developer, Amber Peak, has units at market price, and they aren’t particularly invested in affordable housing per se. There’s no expectation that these units would be necessarily of an affordable character,” Mollot-Hill said in an interview with The Journal.
The Sydenham District Association has heard from both residents and students who expressed concerns over how construction of a six-storey building may impact the character of the University District, Mollot-Hill explained.
Concerns have been raised over the lack of public consultation. The development is located in an area which streamlines the development process as part of Kingston’s growth strategy, according to The Kingston Whig Standard.
“That corner is very visible to all students, students walk by it all the time to and from their house, many students live right nearby or unseen all the time. That kind of large, imposing building will change the character of that area for sure,” Mollot-Hill said.
Beth Armstrong, CompSci ’26 explained she doesn’t hold strong sentiments for or against Amber Peak’s development but would rather have the experience of traditional student housing.
Armstrong described student houses in the University District as providing a unique sense of community off-campus, unlike in other Canadian cities.
“At home where I live in the city, everything’s turning into high-rise condos, big buildings, and you kind of lose the ability to see the water and have that open space,” Armstrong added.
Kingston City Council is working to address student housing shortages, with collaboration between educational institutions and provincial advocacy being an avenue to make housing more accessible for students.
“Ultimately, any solution for improving housing affordability in Kingston needs to come as a collaboration,” Mollot-Hill said.
Councillor Conny Glenn has put forward a collaborative working group between the City, Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, and the Royal Military College, according to Mollot-Hill.
Commissioner Mollot-Hill is co-authoring a policy paper focused on housing, transit, and community development, for the Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance. Once approved, the paper will be used to advocate for university students across the province on the issue of housing affordability.
“Students housing is a super huge issue for all students, we know housing is now for many students a larger cost than tuition,” Mollot-Hill said.
“We know the state of some of the houses in their student district is very much subpar. We really encourage students […] to please reach out to the Housing Resource Centre.”
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