The first municipal agreement under the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund have been declared by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The announcement is in relation to a $74-million deal with London, Ontario to fast-track the construction of upwards of 2,000 houses in the city over the next three years – a precursor to thousands of further projects in the years to follow.
The anticipated units are set to include high-density development without the need for re-zoning, and would clear the way for the development of more duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings close to public transit on city land.
As per Rachel Aiello of CTV News, the Liberal Party is framing this as an example of their promised “multi-pronged housing strategy” to tackle the Canada housing issue that has become so pervasive in the lives of locals and immigrants alike; moreover, they are arguing that 100,000 more housing units would be created across the country than what would have been built in the Fund’s absence by streamlining land-use planning and development approvals.
Further additions to Ottawa’s solution are to be “illuminated in the months ahead.”
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“This landmark agreement with London will be the first of many, and we look forward to working with all orders of government to help everyone find a place to call their own,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“Housing is a solvable problem, and we’re all going to solve it if we work together. Canada has done it before, and we’re going to do it again.”
London Mayor Josh Morgan, according to CBC, said he wants the agreement to set an example for the rest of Canada when it comes to housing unit construction.
“This is the most significant housing and housing-related infrastructure investment in London’s history,” he said, thanking his staff and council for their work on the deal.
First announced in the 2021 election campaign and first introduced in the 2022 federal budget as part of a $10-billion housing-focused package, the Housing Accelerator Fund allocates $4 billion in funding until 2026-2027 to prompt more homebuilding in cities.
The fund was officially launched in March 2023.
A statement from the prime minister’s office (PMO) said that the monetary amount of $74-million will help the city:
- Encourage home-building by allowing four units to be constructed on a single property in low-density neighbourhoods
- Dispose of city-owned land for more streamlined development
- Create partnerships with non-for-profits
When questioned by CTV News regarding the delay in money flows, Trudeau briefly remarked that the responsibility for housing is shared jurisdiction, before passing the question to Housing Minister Sean Fraser.
Municipal governments with 10,000-plus population pools apply to take part by pitching initiatives that will increase the annual rate of home-building in their cities by at least 10 percent.
The PMO statement, as per CBC, says that the fund encourages cities to construct high-density apartments around public transit to help seniors, students, families.
Trudeau issued a challenge after the announcement by urging, in his own words, “mayors right across the country to step up with their proposals to so we can get building more homes, increasing supply and lowering the prices for families.”
On being asked whether he wants to see housing prices come down, he said that they “cannot continue to go up.”
Pressure on Trudeau’s government to deal with the housing shortage has ramped up in recent months, and the necessity to deliver a fitting policy response on the same has scaled even further after the Liberal cabinet retreat in Prince Edward Island late last month ended without the announcement of new measures to tackle the crisis.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) updated estimated how much housing the country would need by 2030; the number came to 3.5 million additional housing units to restore affordability above current plans – which was consistent with what the federal housing body projected last year.
However, the practicality of actually achieving that target is up for contention.
The CMHC’s deputy chief economist Aled ab Iorwerth, for one, said he does not think it is possible to build those many homes in the next six to seven years.
‘Shortage Of Housing Right Now’
Trudeau and Fraser, however, are unnerved by statistics or opinions as those held by the Iorwerth.
“We’re facing a shortage of housing right now, and that’s why prices of homes have become far too high… Housing in big cities around the world has already become out of reach for many… Places like New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, but we’re not going to follow those examples,” Trudeau said.
Fraser has said that the housing shortage has changed and molded over the years, in the sense that while it impacted predominantly low-income families around his inception into office in 2015, it has started affecting Canadians with variable-rate mortgages, who have seen their payments scale dramatically with interest rate hikes.
He has thus made sure to let the media know that the government is not ignoring the problem. He told CTV News’ Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos that the government would have new measures announced “over the next few months” that will “help address housing affordability across Canada.”
Measures would also be delivered promptly, according to Fraser, and he would not wait for the upcoming fall economic update – or any pre-determined date, for that matter – to start rolling out new policy measures.
There is no “silver bullet,” as per Fraser, and the cabinet is taking an “all hands on deck” approach to work with other levels of government and the private sector to come up with measures to alter the multitude of issues plaguing the housing sector – from permit lags to rising building costs.
CBC author Peter Zimonjic reports that additional measures to tackle some key problems were also suggested by Fraser, like:
- Providing financial relief to builders with approved but paused projects because of the impact of rising interest rates.
- Speeding up building permit issuances and the time it takes to change “zoning practices” by working with municipalities, to make it easier to build.
Fraser additionally said that measures are needed to “grow the productive capacity of the workforce” by training Canadians in construction, and by recruiting newcomers with important skills.
“We’re going to be looking at everything we can do to build homes more quickly so we can make homes affordable for ordinary people,” he said.
“A new standard has been set and we have new expectations. We want you to build houses near transit, we want you to build houses near campuses, we want you to build houses so families can access the services that they need…. It’s not too much to ask.”
Conservatives were not very favorable to the announcement by the Liberal side on Wednesday, and released a statement suggesting Liberal housing policies have been failures till now.
“It appears that members of the Liberal caucus are just now starting to notice what their constituents have been facing,” the statement said.