Ontario Construction News staff writer
The federal government has rejected an application from the City of Windsor for funds to fast-track housing development.
In a letter to the city, Housing Minister Sean Fraser said he is not approving Windsor’s application to the federal Housing Accelerator Fund as it was not ambitious enough.
He says it is clear that Windsor needs to build more homes, and actions such as ending exclusionary zoning are important.
The $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund is a federal initiative to encourage municipalities to make changes to bylaws and regulations that would spur more housing construction, in exchange for money.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says the city made reasonable proposals that included densification on land that, once built-out, would have allowed it to exceed its housing targets.
Dilkens says he refuses to compromise neighbourhoods and do away with fair public consultation in exchange for funding that he says “will be tied to sacrificing the makeup” of communities.
Windsor submitted its HAF application on August 18, 2023. As a result of the city’s commitment to housing, the HAF proposal includes eight initiatives to meet the action plan recommendations set by the federal government.
Highlights of the city’s proposal include:
- Commitment to add an additional 2,135 residential dwelling units to the already anticipated development of 1,765 units over the next three years
- Allowing four residential units as-of-right along major transit routes, in most parts of downtown, and in many other areas across the city
- Allowing multi-unit builds and several-story builds, including four-plexes, across almost 1,000 acres and nearly 50 kilometres of arterial roads with bus routes available.
- Allocation of enough land to build thousands more units than required for Windsor to meet its HAF housing targets.
At the time of the city’s submission, there was no prerequisite for cities to agree to allow four residential units as-of-right, anywhere in the municipality. On November 30, 2023, three months after the city’s submission, representatives from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) met to discuss amendments the federal government had made to the original framework of the HAF program. As part of that discussion, the City was advised that allowing four residential units as-of-right in all low-density zoning districts city-wide was now the minimum requirement to be considered for HAF funding. Currently, Windsor permits three units per a zoning change that was adopted under bill 23.
On Dec. 13, 2023, council voted 8 to 2 to reject four-plexes as-of-right in Windsor, and reaffirmed a commitment to meeting HAF housing targets through the initiatives included in the City’s HAF proposal. To date, the federal government remains steadfast on their funding eligibility requirement that the City allow four residential units as-of-right in all low-density zoning districts city-wide.
With files from Canadian Press