‘Mississauga can only approve housing, we cannot build it’: PCs deny City Hall of critical infrastructure funding under flawed criteria 
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‘Mississauga can only approve housing, we cannot build it’: PCs deny City Hall of critical infrastructure funding under flawed criteria 

As the Bank of Canada once again decided not to cut the benchmark lending rate Wednesday, financial stress on developers and numerous other factors beyond City Hall’s control are contributing to Mississauga’s unfair treatment by the PC government.

The last two weeks have seen funding rollouts from Premier Doug Ford, rewarding municipalities across the province for exceeding the housing targets imposed on them in the last year, under the controversial Bill 23. But as the announcements continue to pour out, a recent letter from the City of Mississauga revealed the municipality has been denied the much-needed funding “due to insufficient housing starts” — a measurement the City has argued is completely outside of its control.

The decision, based on what it calls flawed criteria, has left Mississauga without tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure funding.

In August, the Ford government introduced the Building Faster Fund (BFF) as an incentive to “reward” municipalities that meet the PCs’ ambitious housing targets mandated under Bill 23 and penalize those who fail to comply. Up to $1.2 billion in funding over three years — meant to support housing-enabling infrastructure — is contingent on municipalities meeting or exceeding the housing targets they have pledged to achieve by 2031. The caveat, however, is that performance, according to the PCs, is evaluated by comparing the municipality’s number of housing starts — identified as shovels in the ground and a finished foundation — and additional residential units created each year against the annual target.

For Mississauga, the number is 120,000 units by 2031.

The funding is supposed to force commitments “to build more homes as quickly as possible across this province” and achieve the PCs’ target of constructing 1.5 million new homes across Ontario by 2031.

It's a requirement the City of Mississauga is requesting the Province reconsider and consult on further after a February 22 letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing revealed Mississauga was deemed ineligible for the critical infrastructure funding — it was no surprise after Ford and Housing Minister Paul Calandra took several swings at City Hall since former mayor Bonnie Crombie became the Ontario Liberal leader, claiming she had “failed” to meet the housing targets. 


Housing Minister Paul Calandra has used unsubstantiated claims to justify denying Mississauga funding to support new housing.


Their claims and the entire premise behind refusing funding to Mississauga appears flawed on many levels. The City wants the decision to be based on building permit approvals, which the municipality controls, not housing starts, which it has no control over.

Regional data show that in the third quarter of 2023, the most recent figures available when the claims were made, Mississauga had 1,319 housing starts; more than Brampton which had 1,238; and more than all of Durham Region which had 753. Critics have said the threat of Crombie at the polls in 2026 is the real reason Mississauga is being punished, to discredit her.

Despite only having 3,470 housing starts in 2023, according to the City, Mississauga has approved over 31,000 residential units in the last three years and there are currently more than 12,000 units under construction in Mississauga, with 4,000 under building plan review, and 34,000 units under site plan review. But the letter cautions, “While this is a tremendous number of approved applications, the City has limited control over market forces and the business and financial decisions of the development/building industry.” It adds external factors like rising interest rates and ongoing labour shortages are slowing development and construction activity. 

Mississauga officials have pointed out that municipalities can not control housing starts, only approvals. Mississauga has done its duty, they argue, but numerous factors including high interest rates, a lack of labour, stretched out construction operations in the city, which has been in a highrise boom for years, and other barriers have made it difficult for developers to get shovels in the ground, even though the City got building permits approved.

The fact the housing starts data show that even with the barriers, Mississauga is still exceeding other high-growth communities, makes the PC decision even harder to swallow.  

The City is now demanding the government prioritize “a sustainable and fair funding program that will provide the necessary financial support for the crucial infrastructure needed to achieve the development targets in municipalities across the province.

“While we remain committed to meeting our shared housing target, we have been clear that cities must be measured on the factors they can influence. As a measurement, housing starts create winners and losers based on market forces out of the control of municipalities,” the February letter highlighted. “We are disappointed that Mississauga was deemed ineligible for funding based solely on our 2023 housing starts — particularly given the amount of work we’ve undertaken to grow our City.”

Despite the City’s efforts to meet its housing mandate, during the December announcement that the Hazel McCallion Act, to dissolve regional government in Peel, was being cancelled Calandra condemned Mississauga for falling behind in its targets, claiming it has “some of the worst housing starts in Ontario.” The numbers showed his claim was blatantly misleading.

“Housing data is complex and multifaceted and unfortunately, the metrics cities have control over do not line up with how the Province is measuring our progress,” a City of Mississauga spokesperson previously told The Pointer. “Simply put, the Province is measuring ‘housing starts’ but as cities don’t build housing, it’s an inaccurate way to track our progress.” 

In an email to The Pointer, when asked why the PC government is measuring municipalities' eligibility for funding on housing starts, rather than approvals, a spokesperson for the Ministry responded, “Last year, under the leadership of Bonnie Crombie, Mississauga had one of the worst housing start records in the province, only reaching 39 percent of its housing target and therefore is not eligible for funding. This is in contrast to neighbouring communities like Brampton and Caledon, which both met 80 percent of their targets.”

It’s unclear what data the PCs are using to make this claim.

“The Province uses housing starts as a measurement because, simply put, a permit is not a shovel in the ground or a home to live in,” the spokesperson added. “All municipalities are judged by the same metrics.”


Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly targeted Mississauga for having the worst housing starts in the province, despite data from the provincial tracking tool that indicates this clearly is not true.



Mississauga’s frustration comes as funding announcements have been made in recent weeks to municipalities across the province, including Toronto and Brampton.   

On February 22, the PCs awarded $114 million in funding to the City of Toronto for exceeding its provincially-set housing targets, marking the first sign of funding to flow from the program Ford has touted will help municipalities build the necessary infrastructure to support the accelerated housing development forced on municipalities. According to the provincial housing tracker, Toronto exceeded its 2023 target by 51 percent after breaking ground on 31,656 new housing units last year. 

A day later, Ford handed over $25.5 million to Brampton to support the City’s housing target of 113,000 homes — funding the Premier said can be used toward infrastructure projects “that lay the groundwork for more housing and community development.” But it falls alarmingly short of what the municipality would need after a November 2022 report predicted Brampton could face a revenue gap of anywhere between $260 million and $800 million from changes under Bill 23 to development charges and other fees alone, not to mention the billions needed to support the construction of 113,000 new homes in the city just north of Mississauga. 

It was also revealed that the lost money from the changes to development fees would be the “equivalent revenue of a property tax increase of approximately 80 [percent].” Neither Ford nor Mayor Patrick Brown addressed how the $25.5 million investment would put a dent into the money Brampton still needs.

As the Premier and Calandra continue to put pressure on municipalities to accelerate housing, provincial data indicates the benchmark of 150,000 homes per year, every year, needed to achieve the number of homes legislated by 2031 is not being met. The Pointer recently reported the annual pace of construction would need to nearly double by 2025 to have any hope of achieving the PCs’ ambitious goal. 

According to the Province’s housing supply progress tracker, as of its last update on February 22, 19 of Ontario’s municipalities met or exceeded their housing targets, with another seven, Brampton included, “on track” to do so. The remaining 31 have not met the targets assigned to them to date. The tracking tool shows Mississauga has met 39 percent of its target with Brampton at 85 percent, up from 35 percent as of January 19. It’s unclear how the number jumped so dramatically in such a short period of time, conveniently allowing Brampton to leapfrog in front of Mississauga, and suddenly become eligible for the new funding program. Ford and Brown, the last two PC leaders, have worked closely on other politically charged issues, including the decision in December to cancel the dissolution of Peel, which Brown had aggressively lobbied Ford to do. 

One of the key concerns outlined in the City of Mississauga’s letter is that housing starts are counted when the building’s foundation is finished, which, in the case of a high-rise, could be many months, often years, after the City issues a building permit. Other concerns include the limited control over market forces and the business decisions of development companies which determine when to start construction. 

“The City’s role in delivering housing is to review development applications and issue building permits,” the Mississauga spokesperson told The Pointer. “It is the responsibility of the developer/builder to start construction after the permit is issued — the timing of which is outside the City’s control.” 

“In some instances, we’re seeing that some developers are securing land use permissions but are not moving to pull building permits and start construction.”

The City also highlights that municipalities in Ontario are at different stages of growth and development which “makes comparing housing starts problematic.” With the future of Mississauga’s development primarily focused on infill and high rise buildings, the focus is no longer on “building low-rise subdivisions like other GTA cities which are much faster and simpler to build than complex high-rise towers.” Mississauga is taking a more strategic planning approach, including the priority of approving gentle density projects.  

“It has been widely reported that the industry is slowing down construction due to a wide variety of factors such as interest rates, labour shortages, cost of materials, market/investor demand, and other factors beyond our control. In some instances, we are seeing that developers are securing land use permissions but are not moving to pull building permits and start construction,” the letter states. 

“Mississauga can and will continue to encourage development and approve units. However, if the industry chooses not to start construction, or if landowners choose not to submit development applications, our residents should not be penalized for something outside of the City’s control.”


A recent report revealed the province is not on track to meet its housing targets of 1.5 million homes by 2031.

(The Pointer files) 


This was made clear in the latest policy report from the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which showed housing starts were down in 2023 despite the Province’s determination to have 1.5 million new homes constructed by 2031 — more than double the historic rate of housing starts. The report revealed that while 2021 had the highest level of housing starts in over three decades, reaching 100,000 units (still not nearly enough to meet the PC target), housing construction “slipped” last year — the first full year since Bill 23 came into effect — with the province only reaching 96,000 housing starts in 2022 and an estimated 90,000 in 2023. 

While the Ford government has laid much of the blame on municipalities for the sluggish pace of home construction, the Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario reported in March 2023 that based on numbers from late 2022 (pre-Bill 23) municipalities across the province were sitting on more than 1.25 million potential housing units already in the development pipeline. It reflected the number of homes developers have been approved for, with permits to build issued, while the projects have not yet materialized. 

In an email to The Pointer, a City of Mississauga spokesperson confirmed that between January 2000 and June 2023, the City approved zoning applications for almost 34,800 units where a building permit has not yet been applied for, meaning the construction on the site is dormant. Of the approved units, the spokesperson noted 16 percent (or 5,600 units) are associated with an active site plan and are close to moving toward a building permit. The remaining 29,200 units (or 84 percent) “are either inactive or part of a phased development that will be built over many years/decades.”

In the early 2000s, the City pre-zoned the lands in Mississauga’s downtown core to permit unlimited height and density, which means a developer is not required to rezone the lands in order to move forward with development. The City spokesperson said it is estimated that vacant or underutilized lands in the downtown area could support another 52,000 units–29 percent (approximately 15,000) of which are part of an active site plan application and/or a lifting of a holding provision application. The remaining lands (estimated to be able to support 37,100 units) are not subject to any development efforts and are classified as “inactive”.

But the number of shovels in the ground will not matter if municipalities don’t have the underlying infrastructure to support the expedited construction of new homes, which requires revenues municipalities do not have the tools to raise.

A November 2022 staff report revealed the City stands to lose an estimated $815 to $885 million in development charges for infrastructure over the next decade due to Bill 23 — a price tag that without provincial funding would either need to be covered through reducing services or transferring the bill onto Mississauga’s taxpayers with estimates projecting an additional 8 to 10 percent property tax increase to pay for the lost revenue. Absent from these increases, which would already be unprecedented, are the billions that will be needed to create all the infrastructure necessary to support about 250,000 new residents. 

Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM) has also blamed the PCs for a housing plan that “measures what [cities] can’t control.” The advocacy group says provincial funding criteria, like the rules set out in the Province’s Building Faster Fund “unfairly penalizes municipalities who do not have control over housing starts” once a development application is approved. The advocacy group put forward a motion in October calling on the Province to reconsider the program’s requirements. Calandra shot down the request in November.


Mississauga pledged its commitment to reach the Province’s housing targets in March 2023 with the development of a four-year housing action plan, called “Growing Mississauga”.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer files) 


The City’s letter points out Mississauga was one of the first municipalities in Ontario to prepare a Housing Action Plan and submit its housing pledge to the PC government.  

In March 2023, City Council approved “Growing Mississauga" to act as a roadmap to meet its target of 120,000 new homes — a mandate staff have said “puts an undue strain on City resources to build the same amount of homes in 10 years that would have been built in 30.” Since taking on the housing pledge imposed on the municipality, the City, through its latest housing plan, has worked to streamline its development and building permit approval processes, expanded housing permissions, and worked with its Housing Panel to find innovative solutions that will work for residents and industry partners. 

The four-year action plan, which outlines how Mississauga will get housing built, recognizes “it’s important to remember the City of Mississauga can only approve housing, we cannot build it. The development industry must do this.” The municipality currently has zoning in place for approximately 80,000 homes, only half of which are actively being developed to date.

The City has assured it can meet its housing targets under the PC legislation “provided there is an investment in new infrastructure at an accelerated pace.” In the absence of funding for infrastructure, Mississauga’s housing plan warns “the city will not function in the way a city is meant to. Support from all levels of government is needed to fund and deliver new infrastructure at an accelerated pace to correspond with the new growth.”

Mississauga nearly missed out on millions in federal funding in October through Ottawa’s Housing Accelerator Fund after councillors failed to pass a motion that would support allowing fourplex houses. The federal funding later flowed in December and the City was awarded $112.9 million to help deliver more homes and improve affordability after Crombie invoked her strong mayor powers to turn around the previous council decision, made while she was on leave to run for the Liberal leadership, to bring fourplexes to fruition.

According to the City’s housing plan, Mississauga can accommodate 246,000 new residential units, which would  significantly exceed the target established by the Province, based on current Official Plan policies, but a spokesperson for the City previously told The Pointer, “Mississauga can only accommodate this level of growth if infrastructure and services are in place and the development and building industry have the desire and capacity to build the new homes.”

“With millions of dollars on the line, it is important that we be measured on areas we control and not be penalized on market factors and/or the business decisions developers make as to when to plan new development or start construction.”

In January, Ford announced the unspent funds for municipalities that don’t meet their provincially imposed housing targets will be redistributed into “additional housing-enabling infrastructure investments,” which other cities, including those that have already received their share of the BFF, can apply for — meaning Mississauga’s potential funds could be redirected, leaving the city with nothing.

It was also announced that municipalities will be able to apply for funding through the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund “to support municipal water projects that will help unlock housing opportunities and further protect communities.” Through this program, the PCs are providing $200 million over three years to help municipalities repair, rehabilitate and expand critical drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, so Mississauga may be able to secure some much-needed funding.  

Regardless, the City argued in its latest pre-provincial budget submission that the Building Fast Fund, and the water/wastewater fund “are not sufficient” to compensate the municipality for its financial losses. In order for Mississauga to prepare for future development, officials inside City Hall say the PC government needs to provide “a sustainable and fair funding program”.



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Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock

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