The City of Burlington is one of several municipalities fighting back against the government of Ontario’s criteria set for housing targets, saying they are beyond the city’s control.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward spoke on the city’s plan for housing development on CHCH Morning Live Wednesday.
Meed Ward says the introduction of Bill 23 limits municipal governments’ ability to collect development charges. These are the charges through which city’s pay for housing-related infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems.
The government has announced the introduction of a “Building Faster Fund” set at $1.2 billion, however Meed Ward says certain targets must be met towards the housing start pledges made by municipalities.
The Mayor says that the provincial government counts housing starts as foundation being poured, which is not in control of the municipality.
“Most of us at the Ontario big city caucus, and certainly Burlington, we won’t qualify for any of this funding which means we have to do one of two things. Either raise taxes to build the infrastructure to get the housing, or not build the infrastructure and not get the housing.” she says.
“It is completely against what the government is trying to achieve and it doesn’t help us.”
While municipalities hold power in approving new developments, foundations being poured and thus housing starts themselves, remain in the hands of the development industry.
Meed Wards says developers have reported to local governments that difficulties have come through rising interest rates that have made it increasingly difficult to qualify for loans and for homebuyers to get mortgages leading to an overall decrease in sales.
Labour shortages have proven to be an additional barrier, as well as supply chain issues that have all forced developers to place projects on hold.
Meed Ward says municipalities now find themselves in a “perfect storm” where they require the infrastructure to build housing, the government will only provide funding until well down the path of new builds.
Ontario’s big city caucus says they will work alongside the provincial government to help in building a better metric given the ultimate lack of control they have in housing starts.
Additionally, while big city mayors are welcoming the $1.2 billion fund, some are saying it is simply not enough to meet housing demands.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has estimated that true infrastructure costs are closer to $3 to 4 billion.
Nearly 50 municipalities across the province have agreed to housing pledges.
With the city of Burlington awaiting action from developers, Meed Ward says they are in a freeze between building the infrastructure needed, action from developers and a lack of funding from the province because of the stalemate.
Speaking on those waiting on housing, she says “that’s the biggest tragedy of this whole situation that we, as municipalities, are all saying we are there to help. We will issue permits, do everything we can to make sure that developers get their approvals.”
“The way that the government has set up the funding and definitions goes completely against that. It’s counterintuitive and cuts us off at the knees”