Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Doug Ford won’t stand in way of cities getting housing funding directly from Ottawa

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford appears to be “okay” with the federal government potentially negotiating directly with cities for housing funding, although he argued that Ottawa shouldn’t “go it alone.”


The comments were made at a news conference held in Milton, Ont. following questions from reporters.


“For as long as I can remember, (funding) flows into the province and the province distributes it, but I guess they want to do things differently,” Ford said on Monday.


As part of the federal government’s 2024 budget, about $5 billion is being set aside for housing infrastructure. This funding would be divided between the provinces and territories, and is contingent on a list of action items meant to spur the building of housing—including a requirement that provinces adopt a policy allowing four unit dwellings “as of right.”


Allowing fourplexes to be built “as of right” would involve amending official plans and zoning bylaws to allow the building of up to four residential units, up to four storeys, on any parcel or land zoned as “residential.”


The Ford government has maintained it should be up to each municipality to decide for themselves if it is something they want.


“The federal government, the provincial government, doesn’t know best. The municipalities know best and we’re going to work with them,” Ford said on Monday.


In question period, Housing Minister Paul Calandra reiterated the province will not be changing their mind on fourplexes, despite the risk of losing federal funding.


“There is no law against that right now in the province of Ontario, so we encourage municipalities to make decisions in the best interest of their taxpayers,” he said.


“What we are focusing on is ensuring there is infrastructure built for 1.5 million homes.”


The federal government has indicated that if provinces don’t make the proper concessions, they will negotiate directly with municipalities to offer them the money.


In Alberta, this has resulted in Premier Danielle Smith introducing legislation that would prevent such direct deals from being struck unless it matched provincial ideological priorities.


When asked if he would consider the same thing, Ford insisted that cooperation was necessary to build homes.


“I appreciate any money coming from the federal government so I’m okay with [it], if you let the municipalities deal with this, not the federal, provincial governments.”


At the same time, Ford said he doesn’t think the federal government should “go it alone.”


“Let’s all work together,” the premier said. “Let’s work together. You get a bigger bang for the money that you’re putting out there.”


The cooperative attitude is surprising considering Ford’s past statement on the federal government overstepping its jurisdiction.


In November, when Ottawa offered municipalities funding to boost their housing supply, Ontario’s premier called it “jurisdictional creep” and said it was unacceptable.


“You can’t have a federal government going into a certain town or certain city and dumping funding and not even discussing it with the province,” he said at a meeting of Canada’s premiers.


The comments were directed at the Housing Accelerator Fund, a $4-billion pledge meant to incentivize municipalities to update their zoning and permit systems to allow for faster construction of housing.

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