Ottawa announces $112.9M to spur housing in Mississauga; Ford continues to sit on the sidelines
Mississauga will receive much-needed funding to help with its provincial target of 120,000 homes—part of the 1.5 million units the PCs want built across Ontario by 2031—after a move by Mayor Bonnie Crombie to create more density aligned with Ottawa’s criteria for housing support to municipalities.
On Monday, local MP and Minister of Small Business Rechie Valdez, standing alongside Mayor Crombie and several Mississauga councillors and other MPs, announced the City will receive $112.9 million in funding from taxpayers through the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund “to deliver significant lasting changes to the way homes are built” in Mississauga, changes, she said, that “will tear down the barriers that slow housing down.”
“The program we're announcing is built on a simple idea: helping municipalities change how houses get built in our communities so that, in turn, we can overcome the housing crisis. This is about coming together as a society to build more homes faster here in our community of Mississauga,” Valdez said. “Through the housing accelerator fund, our government is working together with municipalities towards our shared goal of fast-tracking the creation of at least 100,000 homes from coast to coast to coast over the next three years.”
The fund, Valdez explained, will provide upfront revenue to ensure the timely building of new homes, as well as additional money once results are delivered. The federal government will provide Mississauga with 25 percent of the funding upfront to get the agreement started and help catalyze the City’s action plans. The remainder of the funding will “trickle forward annually over the next three years.”
“We are working on our agreements with the City of Mississauga and as long as they follow through with the arrangements we’ve made there’s no strings attached,” she assured. “This is funding that is for the City of Mississauga.”
The Liberal government has made clear, through the administration of its Accelerator Fund, that municipalities will be rewarded by seeing tax dollars returned to communities that move away from sprawl, focus new construction where affordable housing is needed most and pay attention to planning that creates “missing middle” housing. Hyper verticality on one end of the spectrum, and stretched out subdivisions on the other will not be supported by federal funding.
(Top) Mississauga has plenty of traditional low-rise, single-family houses, and its city-centre has seen an explosion of highrises over the past two decades; (bottom) But it lacks "missing middle" housing like the four-plex pictured here.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer; saadbaig3/X)
Crombie said the Fund recognizes the City's commitment to address the pressing issue of housing supply and affordability, adding “that by working together, we can achieve great things. It also recognizes how ambitious and committed we are to helping get shovels in the ground.”
“This direct funding will help cities like Mississauga who are on the front-lines of the housing crisis fast track the building of new homes,” she added. “Given the severity and the complexity of this crisis, we need to be bold, work quickly and use every tool available to us. This also means ensuring we are innovative and are building the right mix of housing, including the ‘missing middle’ in our neighbourhood.”
Officials said the funding will help bring more than 3,000 new homes and important housing-related infrastructure to Mississauga over the next three years, with an anticipated 35,200 new units over the next decade. With the addition of these new units, the City expects to approve permits for more than 13,000 new homes by 2026.
Federal Minister of Small Business Rechie Valdez (who represents Mississauga) on behalf of federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, announced on Monday the City of Mississauga was successful in its application for support from the Housing Accelerator Fund.
(Government of Canada)
The funding announcement comes less than two weeks after Mississauga approved the use of four-plexes in neighbourhoods city-wide to help address the housing crisis—a move that the funding allocation from the federal government was contingent on. The decision to use her strong mayor powers to override a previous vote that rejected a similar motion to Crombie’s, which she first outlined in October while she was on leave to run for the Ontario Liberal leadership, was made official during a December 6 special council meeting in a 7-4 vote with Councillors Matt Mahoney and Brad Butt opposed. Councillors Stephen Dasko and John Kovac abstained, which is considered a “no”.
Concerned about Mississauga’s eligibility for what was initially anticipated to be $120 million in federal funding for housing and community infrastructure through the Accelerator Fund, Crombie issued a Mayoral Directive, through her provincially granted strong mayor powers, in October to move forward with the necessary steps to allow four-plexes after council voted down a previous motion presented by Councillor Alvin Tedjo in a 5-5 vote (a tie is a loss). The powers allow municipal leaders to win support on motions with only one-third of the council vote on major planning decisions in line with the PC housing plan to build 1.5 million new units by 2031, but can also be used to override council decisions that neglect the long-term needs of the city.
Crombie’s directive came the same day the federal government announced it was committing $114 million in funding to kick-start the construction of 3,150 new homes in Brampton over the next three years, with plans to construct 24,000 new homes over the next 10 years. Mississauga revised its Housing Accelerator application after receiving recommendations from federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser in September, which included increasing the number of units in as-of-right developments from three to four, something Mississauga council had been slow to do.
Mississauga Council’s approval of Crombie’s motion makes the construction of four-plexes seamless on lots that could support converting one residential space to four, allowing the city to gently increase housing supply in existing neighbourhoods by adding additional low-rise options that would not place a significant strain on City services. It’s a move some councillors have said would be a progressive step to address the housing crisis. The motion, which would make building “missing middle” housing easier, seeks to allow four-plexes “as of right”, meaning property owners can build these housing developments on their land if the space allows without requiring specific approvals from the municipality.
Housing reports over the last half decade have highlighted how affordable housing is desperately needed in Mississauga. The Pointer previously reported on the City’s 2017 affordable housing strategy, Making Room for the Middle, which recognized that with the cost of housing increasing, coupled with troublingly low rental vacancy rates and the supply of vacant land dwindling while also rising in price, it posed “a significant challenge,” to the city’s housing market. The 2017 strategy also revealed that 1 in 3 households are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and more than a quarter of middle-income households (those who earn between $58,000 and $108,000) and 70 percent of all low-income households are facing affordability challenges.
Crombie’s Mayoral Directive recognized that “the price of residential properties and the cost of rent in the City of Mississauga has increased significantly in recent years” and has reached a point where “many current and future residents are struggling to make ends meet and can no longer afford to live here.” It reaffirmed Mississauga’s commitment “to addressing the housing crisis by helping facilitate the building of more affordable housing,” and noted that housing is a complex issue and council is “supportive of exploring policies to introduce gentle density and build more housing in Mississauga.”
The federal funding announcement came less than two weeks after Mississauga City Council approved permitting four-plexes city-wide.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
Monday’s announcement was made on behalf of Housing Minister Fraser, who previously expressed his disappointment after council’s decision to deny Tedjo’s motion, stating City Council’s decision to reject the motion “to create the homes the City needs is very concerning.”
At the time, councillors who voted against the motion cited concerns over the lack of consultation, arguing the motion was being rushed through in order to comply with the pressures of the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund. Some councillors were also skeptical the funding would be guaranteed even if four-plexes were approved, despite Fraser’s assurances that Mississauga’s potential share was contingent on meeting requirements outlined by him, which included the condition of allowing four-plexes.
The federal government repeatedly indicated that permitting four-plexes city-wide was a condition for the funding. Minister Fraser previously noted while he was generally pleased with the City’s initial application, it would be stronger if it permitted four-unit housing throughout the city and made efforts to increase density near transit lines, mixed-use developments and post-secondary institutions where they could be within walking distance. Taking these additional steps would "put me in a position to approve your application," he added, also stating, "I need to ensure the city is doing everything in its power to address Canada's housing crisis.”
After Tedjo’s motion was defeated, Fraser said in a letter to Mississauga City Council, “in the absence of a definitive path forward on ending exclusionary zoning, I am not in a position to approve Mississauga’s application.” He also acknowledged, “Canada is in a housing crisis, and cities have an important role to play in addressing this crisis by legalizing housing and removing the outdated approaches to zoning that are not keeping pace with the growth in our communities.”
The letter cautioned that “without a firm commitment from Council to proceed expeditiously to implement four units as-of-right, the Minister will not be in a position to approve the City’s application to the Housing Accelerator Fund.” During the October funding announcement in Brampton—the same day Crombie issued the Mayoral Directive—Fraser said the federal government wants to ensure it’s rewarding the “most ambitious” municipalities in Canada which are willing to exceed what they would have done anyways to build housing. While Mississauga’s application had some “strong pieces in its initial application,” he said the federal government wanted the City “to go further.”
The Fund has granted tens of millions of dollars to cities such as Calgary, London, and Halifax that have met the requirements, including adding density and affordability. Multiple Ontario municipalities have also already signed agreements, including London and Vaughan. Fraser previously said Ottawa would demand that the fastest growing cities and the municipalities that are closest to major urban centres exceed what is required.
After initially rejecting the City’s application he said the door had not been completely shut on Mississauga, but four-plexes had to be allowed.
“I can’t underscore the scale and urgency of the housing crisis,” Crombie told councillors during a November 29 planning and development meeting. “With $120 million in federal funding through the Housing Accelerator Fund on the line, I felt it was necessary to take this bold step in an effort to get more housing built and get us one step closer to meeting our housing targets. This is about ensuring that as we grow and build new housing and as we retrofit our existing housing stock, we are achieving the right mix.”
“It’s one of the many ways we can encourage gentle density in our neighbourhoods rather than hanging on to the outdated policies that inadvertently encourage the building of multiple-million-dollar monster homes for single families.”
An example of a four-plex housing development.
Mississauga’s City manager and CAO Shari Lichterman previously confirmed the federal government had indicated there are limited funds in the program, adding “it's possible that we would miss a window.” During the November 29 planning meeting, she confirmed it was “quite certain” the City would get the funding if it moved ahead with permitting four-plexes city-wide, also noting that if council were to turn the motion down, “it was made very clear to us this would mean we’re not getting the funding.”
“The funding is based not on targets like the provincial targets that we have but it's really based on the programs that we have identified that we are going to put into place over the course of the next three years to achieve… increasing the number of purpose-built rentals, increasing the amount of affordable housing,” she explained. “We are measured on the implementation of initiatives more than we’re being measured on targets [or] on how many houses get built which is actually a much fairer way of doing this than what we’re dealing with, with the provincial government and their funding.”
The City was already mandated by the Province to include triplexes through Bill 23, which also includes the housing target to build 120,000 homes in Mississauga by 2031. The heavy-handed legislation expedites roughly the same number of new homes the City was planning to deliver over thirty years, now condensed into eight. To increase housing supply and demonstrate its commitment to taking action on housing, council approved Growing Mississauga: An Action Plan for New Housing, in March. The move was spurred by Mississauga’s pledge to get on board with Premier Ford’s housing targets. The latest action plan aims to get more housing built and make it more affordable, lays out goals and actions designed “to increase the supply of housing, streamline development and building approvals while improving affordability.” One of the key actions of this plan was to reduce exclusionary zoning and permit missing middle housing in neighbourhoods, which includes multiplexes.
The federal funding will support eight initiatives under the City’s housing action plan, including: developing a range of incentives to boost the development of affordable rental housing; introducing process improvements and incentives to encourage more housing types such as four-plexes, triplexes, townhouses and semi-detached homes in low-rise neighbourhoods; streamlining approval processes to get development applications and building permits issued more quickly; investing in infrastructure to support new growth and development around transit stations; and investing in affordable housing, among others.
“The eight initiatives that the city of Mississauga has proposed will speed up the creation of more homes and strengthen the infrastructure needed to make those homes work for the people of this city,” Valdez said. “Today's announcement speaks to the value of the housing accelerator fund and its ability to get our government and municipal governments like Mississauga on the same page.”
“We know that a balanced mix of housing options, including fourplexes, tri flexes, rental, purpose-built rental, affordable housing, and homeownership is essential to getting more housing built, and will get us one step closer to meeting our housing targets,” Crombie added. “We also know that solving the housing crisis requires collaboration among all levels of government.”
While the two levels of government are celebrating their ability to collaborate, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called out the federal government last month for using its Housing Accelerator Fund to help municipalities create affordable housing, calling the move “jurisdictional creep” and told the federal government to end a program which offers municipalities funding to boost their housing supply. Meanwhile, his PC government has ignored the types of housing Ontarians desperately need.
Critics have said Ford is mouthing the position of subdivision developers who are panicking over smart growth policies being pushed by Ottawa because they will allow housing targets to be met through the construction of dense, affordable and missing middle units, not the large, single-family houses many builders profit from.
The PC government’s alarming give over to some of these builders, who stood to create $8.3 billion in value when Ford’s government opened up chunks of the protected Greenbelt for sprawling residential home construction plans, was an example of the type of expensive housing, out of reach for those who desperately need alternatives, Ford and the developers who support him have been pushing.
In August, Ford introduced the Building Faster Fund, a funding incentive that will provide up to $1.2 billion over three years for municipalities that meet or exceed the housing targets they have pledged to achieve by 2031 as part of the PC government’s More Homes Built Faster Act. Under the funding program, municipalities that reach 80 percent of their annual target each year will become eligible for funding based on their share of the overall housing supply goal and their performance compared to their annual assigned targets.
According to the Province, performance will be evaluated by comparing the municipality’s number of housing starts and additional residential units created annually against the annual target. Municipalities that exceed their target will be eligible to receive additional funding on top of their allocation. Those that do not reach their 80 percent annual target will receive nothing. The funding, he insisted, will provide the tools to municipalities “to tackle the affordability crisis tormenting Ontarians,” but Bill 23 has been heavily criticized for failing to detail how affordable housing will be guaranteed, while municipalities have yet to see a commitment from developers to build affordable homes where they are needed, to end the ongoing crisis.
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