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Housing Accelerator news, week 7
Ajax, Moncton, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Kelowna
I’ve started numbering these updates by week, with week 1 being the week of September 11-15. This is the seventh week of Housing Accelerator negotiations. Last week’s update.
The summary lists municipalities by the week when they first came under the spotlight.
Federal guidance to municipalities
Sean Fraser is providing a list of suggestions to municipalities for their Housing Accelerator applications:
End exclusionary zoning
Stop low-density zoning and regulation that excludes housing types such as affordable and social housing in residential areas.
Encourage high density by allowing mixed-use development and high-density residential as-of-right within proximity to urban cores and transit corridors.
This includes adopting by-laws to adopt more as-of-right zoning measures, from the number of units to storeys.
Make municipally owned lands available for housing through strategies such as disposition, acquisition and/or pre-development.
Increase process efficiency by implementing new technologies or software to speed up development approvals, such as e-permitting.
Prioritized/enhanced development approval process for rental and affordable housing.
Comprehensive review of development charges and fee schedules including waivers, with a focus on permits associated with affordable housing.
Reduce or eliminate parking standards to increase project viability, density and reduce carbon footprint.
Eliminate restrictions related to height, setbacks, building floor area and others to allow a greater variety in housing types, including accessory dwelling units.
Develop affordable housing community improvement plans or strategies/plans for the rapid deployment of affordable housing.
Design and implement guidelines or pre-approved building plans for missing middle housing or specific accessory dwelling unit types such as laneway housing or garden suites.
Develop grant programs encouraging the development of housing types that align with the Housing Accelerator Fund such as missing middle, row homes, purpose-built rental and/or that promote new/innovative construction techniques (modular, pre-fab, mass timber construction, etc.).
Fall update will include policies to boost housing supply, federal ministers say. Bill Curry, the Globe and Mail.
Housing Minister Sean Fraser. Full news conference via CPAC.
Last month, a motion to support four units by right failed to pass Mississauga city council, 5-5.
Last Friday, Mayor Bonnie Crombie issued a strong-mayor directive, overriding council and directing staff to go ahead with the work.
Mississauga moves to permit four-plexes city-wide. News release from Mississauga.
I respectfully urge you to ensure that the City is doing everything in its power to address the housing crisis. In particular, I have three requests that would improve Brampton’s application and better reflect my ambition for the Housing Accelerator Fund:
1. That you revisit Initiative 6 and your decision on the number of units which can be built as-of-right city-wide, and that you modify this number to be even more ambitious, by increasing it from 3 to 4;
2. That you expand the reforms introduced through Brampton Plan, which enables four-storey buildings within a 400 metre radius of your support corridors, to an 800 metre radius, which is generally a ten to fifteen minute walk from transit.
3. That you reduce restrictions on Additional Residential Units (ARUs). For example, expanding the current maximum floor space of 35 square metres to at least 100 square metres.
Storeys, from Monday: Brampton Reaches Record $114M Housing Accelerator Fund Deal. The target is 3150 additional homes over the next three years, 24,000 over 10 years. $114M as direct funding would build about 230 non-market homes at $500K each, so this is somewhere between 10X and 100X as cost-effective.
Brampton’s agreement will allow for high-density development near the city’s transit corridors, reduce barriers to the development of housing in key areas, and create new incentive programs for affordable housing.
As has become a theme in other HAF deals, the City has committed to expanding as-of-right zoning, including permitting four units and four storeys within 800 m of transit.
Hamilton, Vaughan, Halifax, and London have likewise agreed to allow four units on one lot. In an effort to access HAF funding, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie utilized her strong mayor powers to permit the housing type after City Council voted against such zoning changes.
Durham Post: Ajax moves to permit 4 residential units on a property. From Monday.
The Town of Ajax has approved a motion to allow up to four residential units on a property wherever zoning permits detached, semi-detached or street townhouse dwellings.
The Planning and Development staff are being directed to carry out the necessary work to implement “as-of-right” zoning permissions.
Moncton, New Brunswick
CBC: Moncton eyes allowing 4-unit housing across city to access federal funds. Also from Monday.
Monday's unanimously approved motion has three components:
Endeavour to increase density around post-secondary institutions like l'Université de Moncton.
Direct city staff to look at reducing restrictions on accessory dwellings, things like garden suites above a detached garage or basement apartments.
Direct staff to propose amendments to bylaws that would legalize allowance of four unit-dwellings in all residential zones across the city.
Richmond Hill, Ontario
Whereas the City has received correspondence from the Federal Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities dated October 16, 2023 (copy attached to the Motion) in response to Richmond Hill's application for funding under the HAF program indicating that in order to unlock further housing supply in Richmond Hill and to meet the goals of the funding program, in addition to the action items proposed by the City, the City is requested to:
Legalize four units as-of-right city-wide; and
Allow up to four storeys as-of-right within 800 metres of rapid transit and where MTSAs [station areas] do not extend to a walkable radius of 800 metres.
Howard Chai, Storeys: Kelowna Lands $31.5M Federal Housing Accelerator Fund Deal. From Wednesday. Target is 950 homes over the next three years, 20,000 over 10 years. $31.5M would build 63 non-market homes at $500K each, so this is between 15X and 300X as cost-effective.
In the announcement, the federal government specifically commended Kelowna for its work on infill housing.
The City of Kelowna has taken a progressive approach to infill housing, beginning in 2016 through the Infill Options Project, with now over 800 parcels in specified areas of the city permitted to develop up to four residential units per lot. Through that project, the City has committed to pre-zoning large areas of the city core to permit infill housing. The federal government's announcement on Wednesday notes that the Housing Accelerator Fund money is conditional on Kelowna City Council's approval of pre-zoning measures.
The project just completed public engagement earlier this month and is expected to be implemented by the end of the year.
Global News: Federal government pledges $31.5 million for Kelowna housing. Includes details on the timing:
The funding is tied to zoning changes that would allow for more mixed and middle housing options to be built. Twenty-five per cent of the money comes up front, with 25 per cent each of the following three years based on the milestones being met under the agreement.
Kelowna’s Infill Options Project.
Metro Vancouver Regional District, BC
There’s been something of a standoff between the federal government and Metro Van over Metro Van’s plan to hike development charges on new housing.
Thursday: Canada's housing minister urges Metro Vancouver to think twice on development charges. Dan Fumano, Vancouver Sun.
“A ‘growth pays for growth’ approach ignores the value that new development, new property tax bases, new businesses, and new neighbours bring to our communities,” Fraser wrote. “I am concerned that at this particular moment in time, a drastic increase in development charges will inhibit our ability to seize the opportunity to incentivize a rapid increase in construction.”
“In the spirit of finding a solution,” Fraser proposes to “collaborate on a resolution” that ensures Metro can support its infrastructure demands while still “respecting the spirit of building as many new homes as possible.”
Fraser suggests Metro delay the fee increases, to allow more “in-stream” housing developments to advance before fee hikes affect their viability. During that delay, Fraser suggests, Metro Vancouver could review its fees to expand exemptions for purpose-built rentals and non-market housing.
B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said Thursday he hopes the Metro board will consider Fraser’s recommendations, which he called reasonable.
Metro Vancouver’s chief administrative officer, Jerry Dobrovolny, said the decision is up to the board, but he believes Fraser’s proposals are reasonable.
Dan Fumano links to Sean Fraser’s letter. Fraser’s explanation of the core issue:
At the federal level, we are first and foremost changing the financial equation for builders. That is why we recently announced a GST rebate, and an increase to the annual limit for Canada Mortgage Bonds to $60 billion, which is enabling access to financing for builders on better terms and incentivizing construction.
Given the spirit of the Housing Accelerator Fund, and the work that the federal government is doing to change the financial equation for builders, large increases in development charges are at odds with these goals. I understand that the Metro Vancouver Board is currently considering tripling the development cost charges it levies on new developments, and that a vote on the proposal will take place at the end of this week.
Significant increases to development charges have the potential to deter development by offsetting the impact of other measures that reduce the cost of building. When projects do advance, increased charges on development can lead to higher housing costs for renters and homeowners, making it more difficult to find somewhere affordable to live.