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Housing Accelerator: Hamilton, Mississauga, Halifax, Metro Vancouver
Plus commentary from Benjamin Dachis (against) and Mike Moffatt (for)
This week’s Housing Accelerator news. Last week’s update.
Tuesday: Sean Fraser has approved Hamilton’s Housing Accelerator application. Hamilton to get $93.5-million in ‘incentive payments’ to speed up housing construction. The target is 2600 additional homes over the next three years, 9000 over 10 years. $93.5M as direct funding would build about 180 non-market homes at $500K each, so this is about 50X as cost-effective.
Terms of the agreement:
It will allow for high-density development near rapid transit, including the future Hamilton LRT stations. Furthermore, they said it will make City-owned lands and brownfields available for development.
Under the agreement, Hamilton has pledged to expand zoning permission for housing, including amending a zoning by-law to allow for the construction of four residential units on one lot.
In Mississauga, Councillor Alvin Tedjo brought forward a motion for council to approve making four-plexes legal, in principle. On Wednesday, it failed by a 5-5 tie vote.
Agenda and video for the council meeting, including direct links to statements (deputations) from 14 members of the public, most speaking in support. Link to debate. Voting Yes: Alvin Tedjo, Carolyn Parrish, Chris Fonseca, Joe Horneck, Martin Reid. Voting No: Brad Butt, Dipika Damerla, John Kovac, Matt Mahoney, Stephen Dasko.
Mayor Bonnie Crombie is on a leave of absence, campaigning for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. As a leadership candidate for the Ontario Liberals, I think it’s fair to say that Crombie has gotten religion on housing. Her housing plan, released on September 20, includes implementing the recommendations of the Ontario housing task force. It’s been getting endorsements from pro-housing people such as Eric Lombardi of More Neighbours Toronto:
Impressive plan with a lot of clear commitments.
@BonnieCrombie has listened to her party, and many across the province who want action on housing.
A huge departure from the Del Duca waffling commitment, typical front-runner approach.
Welcome Bonnie, to @MoreNeighbours!
Before the vote: Crombie supports the four-plex policy. After the vote: Bonnie Crombie calls Mississauga vote against fourplexes ‘disappointing.’
Crombie will return to her position as mayor in November ahead of the city’s annual budget. She said on her return, “all options” were on the table for more middle housing.
“Change is very difficult,” she said. “And as you can see, we have a couple of our councillors, who have difficulty as well embracing change. But I know they will do the right thing after consultation.”
Sean Fraser had released a letter setting out requirements for Halifax to receive Housing Accelerator funding. Halifax city council voted to accept them, except for the four-storey requirement. It sounds like there was some negotiation: Halifax city council is saying that they can deliver more homes with other measures. Sean Fraser has now approved the application.
From an open letter by Fraser:
Council has moved ahead with the suggested measures, except for permitting four storeys as-of-right. On this point, Council came back with a made-in-Halifax plan that they believe is not only better for the local context, but in fact bolder to deliver more “missing middle” units. If Council believes it can achieve the same ends, if not more, with this amended proposal, then I welcome the approach, especially if we are able to avoid any delay in implementation.
On the understanding that you will:
Increase height in Established Residential 3 Zones;
Increase height in Higher Order Residential and Corridor Zones;
Increase height and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) increases in Centre Zones;
Increase density near universities;
Remove more minimum parking requirements;
Increase as-of-right development approvals; and
Work with the Province to enable unilateral discharge of DAs
I am pleased to inform you that Halifax’s Housing Accelerator Fund application is approved.
The agreement is for $79.3M, with a target of 2600 homes over the next three years and 9000 over 10 years. Again, that’s more than 50X as cost-effective as using the $79M to build 160 non-market homes at $500K each.
No word yet on what’s happening with Metro Vancouver’s proposal for large increases in development charges. The Globe and Mail has an editorial arguing against these increases: A fairer way to share the costs of ending the housing crisis.
This is all part of a system that favours existing owners over everyone else – and the higher and often unnoticed taxes the systems impose that undermine the goal of building a lot more new housing.
The long trend of piling costs on Canadians who are struggling to buy a home or find a place to rent, all while trying to ease the load shouldered by people who already own a home, has to stop. The costs of growth must be shared. And governments need to work together, rather than pulling in opposite directions.
Commentary on the strategy
Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has started sending letters to municipal governments concerning their specific plans. He is providing money from the Housing Accelerator Fund to cities willing to relax their zoning. That’s a move in the right direction. But the federal government cannot possibly peer into the detailed zoning bylaws of the hundreds of cities that together determine the speed at which the whole country can expand its housing stock.
Mike Moffatt, commenting on Mississauga’s failure to approve four-plexes in principle, observes that there’s a relatively small number of municipalities where housing scarcity is worst.
This is a massive problem for Tillsonburg. Suppose you're the Mayor or on council in Tillsonburg, and you're really worried about affordability or homelessness. And you're willing to do whatever it takes to fix the problem.
Sadly, there's nothing they can do to fix this.
Tillsonburg can have world-class zoning policies, instant approvals, growth boundary expansions, you name it.
None of that will fix affordability. All it will do is cause more families to move in from Mississauga.
This is why we can't leave solving the housing crisis to municipalities. Ontario has 444 different municipalities, and there's about a dozen that can make a meaningful impact. The other 400+ are more impacted by the decisions that Mississauga, Toronto, etc. make than their own.