Premier Ford encouraging developers to build rental units

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will implement a very “aggressive” housing plan to increase supply and ease the current housing crisis.

Ford says that supply is one of the main reasons for the crisis in housing and he wants to focus on finding vacant or surplus government property.

The premier has adopted a target of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.

In a news conference in late June following a meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ford focused on housing.

“We are going to have a very, very aggressive plan moving forward,” Ford said, suggesting the option of utilizing vacant property available to the provincial and federal governments for affordable units.

“So that’s the first start, to make sure that we focus on building on that vacant property, every piece of property available we should at least look at and investigate it and make sure it’s feasible to build on.”

During his re-election campaign, Ford pledged to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years.

Provincial ministers tasked with finding affordable housing for Ontario’s growing population include Steve Clark, who remains as municipal affairs and housing minister, and well Michael Parsa, who takes on the job as associate minister of housing.

Ford also encouraged developers to build more rental units in an effort to provide more affordable housing and recognized the largest cost is finding land for new housing.

“We can’t do it alone. We have to work with the federal government, the province and the cities,” he said.

“I’m confident that if we can standardize the process, speed up the process, get shovels in the ground, supply some of the land, we can really move forward. Make no mistake about it. There are challenges.”

Mayor Tory agreed that inter-governmental cooperation is key to getting homes built.

“We can’t afford to have a city in which only people who are comfortable or those who are struggling can live (here). There needs to be room for people in the middle,” Tory said, adding that the CMHC must also step up with adequate loans for development.

“The interest rate situation and the construction cost situation has changed the financial dynamics for a lot of these projects.”

The new provincial cabinet sworn in on Friday includes MPP Steve Clark in in his familiar role as municipal affairs and housing minister, as well as creating an associate minister of housing position.

Returning Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma has taken on an additional mandate for government real estate, and is charged with finding land on which to build housing.

Housing legislation that the government enacted shortly before the election contained measures to streamline approval processes, but lacked key measures such as zoning changes that advocates and experts have long urged, which Clark blamed on a lack of co-operation from municipalities.

In a June 15 letter to the Premier, Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), said he was encouraged to see throughout the campaign and prior a commitment to building 1.5 million new homes within the next decade, as well as previous actions taken in the More Homes for Everyone Act and the More Homes, More Choice Plan.

RESCON is advocating for further action to remove many pointless systemic barriers and create development opportunities. We feel these measures will become all the more critical with rising costs and interest rates and potential economic shock.

That includes:

  • Ending exclusionary zoning to spur missing middle housing
  • Reforming municipal development planning and building permitting processes
  • Implementing all 55 Housing Affordability Task Force Report Recommendations

Lyall refers to a 2020 CANCEA report that showed the economic benefits to speeding up the development approvals process by adopting a comprehensive and centralized development planning and building e-permitting system across Ontario.

“Specifically, regions in Ontario could see thousands of additional housing units and attract millions of dollars in additional jobs and investment,”  he said.

“The GTA alone could see up to 100,700 additional housing units by 2040 if there was a reduction in delays to the approvals process by six months and a 10-per-cent increase in investment.”

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