End exclusionary zoning for federal dollars, housing minister tells municipalities

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Municipalities should be open to zoning reforms if they are looking to access funds from the federal government’s housing accelerator fund.

Speaking last week at an Empire Club of Canada luncheon in Toronto, Housing Mininster Sean Fraser said a willingness to adopt zoning reforms has been key for the communities that signed deals with Ottawa.

“The housing crisis will be solved when every Canadian lives in a home they can afford. We’re working to make that happen by getting home builders building, making investments in affordable housing, and growing the capacity of Canada’s homebuilding workforce,” he said.

bWhile many cities have changed their approach to housing, Fraser warned that for municipalities to access funds from the new housing accelerator fund, they must “be more ambitious than your neighbours.”

“There are cities who won’t receive funding because they don’t want to end exclusionary zoning in Canada. I know who some of them are and maybe they’ll change their ways.”

The fund allocates $4 billion for Canadian municipalities and Indigenous governments. The program is set to run until 2026-27.

Fund administrator Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has said an end to exclusionary zoning is among best practices for successful applications.

That includes getting rid of low-density zoning and regulations that exclude affordable and social housing in residential areas, and instead allowing mixed-use development and high-density residential within proximity to urban cores and transit corridors.

While there have been more than 500 applications for funding, Fraser said about 150 will be approved.

“The reality is there’s not a city who signed a deal with us who hasn’t more or less ended exclusionary zoning in Canada,” Fraser told the Toronto audience.

“Cities should know that if you’re not willing to be amongst the most ambitious cities in the country when it comes to zoning reform permitting processes, you won’t be successful.”

Municipal decisions to restrict housing supply are being overcome through upzoning efforts through the Housing Accelerator Fund. This $4 billion program will help to fund projects that expedites the approval of housing units. For example, Fraser wants to see higher densities around transit stations and more four-plexes as of right. Successful applications to the fund will “be more ambitious.”

A $15-billion rental apartment construction loan program announced few months ago is set for an expansion, Fraser said.

“We’re eyeing up new reforms to that program that are going to reduce the time to access it for builders who can speed up the process of getting to a decision, and we’re also looking at broadening the categories of eligibility so that different kinds of homes may be able to benefit from the program,” he said.

“There are many opportunities that I see when it comes to embracing rental, but all of them require that we partner with cities to allow for the kinds of density that we absolutely need,” Fraser said. “It will do no good to change the financing equation if, at the end of the day, cities won’t allow a particular kind of building to be constructed.”


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