Moving past a tough 2020, Kitchener City Council is all set for a new and better year.
Considering the struggles residents have faced, council approved the lowest tax increase in a decade, recognizing the pandemic pressure on individuals and businesses.
“We will build back better this year,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
The city has also received funding from the provincial and federal governments that will be helping the council to deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“We are grateful for our federal and provincial partners,” said Vrbanovic.
This year, along with managing the challenges that came along with COVID, the council will be focused on prioritizing issues such as climate change, transportation, and affordable housing.
“We are focused on making sure that we address whatever we can do to adjust (to) climate change,” said Coun. Sarah Marsh during an interview with Spoke. “We have a climate change mitigation and adaptation plan so that is something that we will continue to work on.”
Public transportation is also the focus for council plans for the post-COVID recovery later this year, after a huge loss in ridership.
“We will look to increase ridership post COVID and we’ll do that by giving more opportunities for people to bring bikes on and off on LRT and the buses,” said Marsh. “We are also going to be decreasing our fuel cost over time by using electric buses instead of the current diesel or gas ones.”
The plan is also to bring more bike lanes to the downtown core.
Council has also approved the Affordable Housing Strategy, recognizing that almost every segment of the housing market needs help and support from the government.
“Affordable housing is a major priority for us and so we are working to do our best to increase the number of affordable housing units,” said Marsh.
The council is also looking forward to helping community groups through the pandemic.
“We just added a new team to our staff, we will be adding a five-person team to work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” said Marsh.
Marsh also mentioned that in the past year the Black Lives Matter movement and the Land Back Camp initiatives locally have brought to the forefront the need to address systemic racial barriers and that it is really important for the city council to work hard to remove as many barriers as possible.