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Housing Accelerator update, week 10
Agreements with Calgary and Moncton, Conservative reaction
Week 6: Quebec, Kitchener, Guelph, Burlington
Week 8: Waterloo, Charlottetown, Winnipeg
Week 9: agreements with Kitchener and Quebec
Agreement with Calgary
On Tuesday, Sean Fraser was in Calgary to announce that he had approved Calgary’s Housing Accelerator application. CTV: Ottawa gives Calgary $228M for housing.
Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser says the agreement with Calgary will fast-track the development of 6,800 housing units over the next three years and spur the construction of more than 35,000 homes over the next decade.
Another illustration of the cost-effectiveness of the Housing Accelerator Fund. If used directly to build housing, $228M would build about 450 homes at $500K each. So 6,800 additional homes is about 15X as cost-effective, and 35,000 homes is about 80X.
Winnipeg: committee approves four storeys within 800 m of frequent transit
Also on Tuesday. CBC: Winnipeg mayor's inner circle approves zoning changes for housing funding.
The executive policy committee approved changes to loosen zoning rules, which Ottawa has made a condition for approving the city's $192-million application to the federal Housing Accelerator Fund.
The committee voted 5-1 Tuesday to amend Winnipeg's application to the federal housing fund, promising to allow construction of fourplexes citywide and up to a height of four storeys anywhere within 800 metres of frequent transit routes, among other changes to the city's bylaws.
What happens next:
The proposed zoning changes now go to full Winnipeg city council for a vote next week.
Agreement with Moncton
On Thursday, Ginette Petipas-Taylor and Moncton mayor Dawn Arnold announced a Housing Accelerator agreement between the federal government and Moncton. CTV: Moncton partners with federal government to fast-track building housing.
The city has reached an agreement with the federal government, under the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), to fast-track more than 490 housing units over the next three years.
“This work will help spur the construction of more than 5,500 homes over the next decade,” reads a news release from the federal government.
The government says the agreement will provide more than $15.5 million to eliminate barriers to building housing faster.
$15.5 million would build about 30 homes at $500K each. 490 homes over three years is about 15X as cost-effective; 5500 homes over 10 years is about 150X.
Rental housing announcements
Besides the Housing Accelerator announcements, there was also a series of announcements this week of rental housing funded by the federal government through the older $25B Rental Construction Financing Initiative. This program provides low-cost long-term loans for purpose-built rental housing, helping with the cost bottleneck. More details on the RCFI here.
Sean Fraser: introduction
Jenna Sudds: 1100 rental apartments in Ottawa
Chrystia Freeland: 2600 rental apartments in Toronto
Anita Anand: 130 apartments in Oakville
This isn’t a comprehensive list: apparently there were a total of 12,000 apartments announced.
Reaction from Pierre Poilievre
Something you often hear about Pierre Poilievre is that he’s better at identifying problems than solutions. He often talks about municipal gatekeepers and the need to get them out of the way, as in this short video from April 2022:
This is exactly what Sean Fraser has been doing for the last 10 weeks: he’s been using the Housing Accelerator to convince municipal governments to legalize more housing, removing the need for the slow and painful process of spot rezoning. He’s been getting the gatekeepers to unlock the gates - doing exactly what Poilievre has been saying needs to be done.
Of course the job of the opposition leader is to oppose. On Monday, Pierre Poilievre attacked the Housing Accelerator Fund as a “travelling circus” where municipalities are just getting credit for housing that they would have built anyway.
“Get the municipal gatekeepers out of the way!”
“Not like that!”
Another interesting comment from Poilievre: on Tuesday, in View Royal (near Victoria), he said that he thinks governments shouldn’t be building housing themselves. Michael John Lo, Times Colonist: Governments should get out of home-building, Poilievre says in visit to View Royal construction site.
Asked by the Times Colonist whether he would increase federal involvement in affordable-housing construction, Poilievre — still dressed in a construction hat and a high-visibility vest — said governments should get out of the home-building business and sell off federal buildings and land to developers.
Criticism from Conservative premiers
Another key point is that in many of the provinces, there’s already a Conservative provincial government. Because municipalities are created by provincial legislation, they only have powers that the province has delegated to them. The province has full power to override them and unlock the gates themselves.
In BC, David Eby and the BC NDP are doing exactly this. In Ontario, Doug Ford’s own housing task force has been telling him to do something similar since January 2022, and for some reason he’s decided not to.
Steve Lafleur: Doug Ford is blowing it on housing.
Unfortunately, the premier has gotten sidetracked recently, arguing with the feds. The bone of contention is that the federal housing minister has been going around making deals with municipalities to upzone in exchange for federal dollars through the Housing Accelerator Fund. I can’t speak to the Premier’s motivation for this fight, but it’s shortsighted.
The federal minister is giving the premier political cover here. He’s getting municipal governments to make tough reforms the premier hasn’t thus far been willing to impose. Indeed, many of these reforms are straight out of the Housing Affordability Taskforce report. The premier doesn’t have to drive the bus, but he really shouldn’t stand in front of it.
If the premier doesn’t like that the federal minister is stepping on his turf, he can solve his issue with a single press conference. He can fully commit to implementing all of the Housing Affordability Taskforce’s recommendations in a timely manner. If he doesn’t, the next premier will. All of the major candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership have vowed to implement the task force recommendations.
He can get back in the driver’s seat and be the man who fixed Ontario’s housing crisis. Or he can be remembered as the last gasp of Toronto NIMBYism.
In New Brunswick, Premier Blaine Higgs criticized the Moncton agreement. Global News: N.B. premier reacts to federal housing funds delivered directly to Moncton.
When Global News asked for comment regarding the funding announcement, Higgs said in an e-mailed statement: “Bypassing provincial governments is not the solution. Collaboration is key here as we need all three levels of government to work together on housing and other critical files.”