Feds creating $6 billion ‘Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund’

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By Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

The federal government has announced $6 billion to build critical infrastructure, but funds will be accessible only to provinces and territories that agree to conditions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

“We’re taking the challenge of building more homes, faster, in this country head-on … This is how we’ll address the shortage of housing options for Canadians,” Trudeau said. “This is how we will make it fairer for younger generations who feel like they are falling behind because housing costs are too high.”

The Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund will be dedicated to the construction and upgrading of water, wastewater, storm water and solid waste infrastructure, with $1 billion to municipalities for shovel-ready “urgent infrastructure needs,” according to a news release from the Prime Minister’s office.

To share in the remaining $5 billion, provinces and territories will have to build more “missing middle” homes, including duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and multi-unit buildings, and impose a three-year freeze on development charges for cities with more than 300,000 people.

The federal government said the provinces will have until Jan. 1 to secure agreements. Territories will have until April 1 and accept the following conditions:

  • Require municipalities to broadly adopt four units as-of-right and allow more “missing middle” homes, including duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, and other multi-unit apartments.
  • Implement a three-year freeze on increasing development charges from April 2, 2024, levels for municipalities with a population greater than 300,000.
  • Adopt forthcoming changes to the National Building Code to support more accessible, affordable, and climate-friendly housing options.
  • Require as-of-right construction for the government’s upcoming Housing Design Catalogue.
  • Implement measures from the Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights and Renters’ Bill of Rights.

Also, to access long-term, predictable funding for public transit through the federal government’s upcoming public transit fund, municipalities will be required to:

  • Eliminate all mandatory minimum parking requirements within 800 metres of a high-frequency transit line.
  • Allow high-density housing within 800 metres of a high-frequency transit line.
  • Allow high-density housing within 800 metres of post-secondary institutions.
  • Complete a Housing Needs Assessment for all communities with a population greater than 30,000.

One of the conditions attached to the money would allow fourplexes to be built “as of right.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford has rejected the idea of allowing fourplexes to be built automatically across the province.

Quebec has stated that municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction and that any money destined for cities and towns has to flow through the Quebec government.

The federal government is also topping up its housing accelerator fund with an additional $400 million over three years, which it says will help build another 12,000 homes, Trudeau announced Tuesday.

Conservative housing critic Scott Aitchison dismissed the federal announcement as “a $4 billion dollar photo op fund.”

“This is the same fund that [Trudeau’s] own housing minister admits hasn’t built a single home,” he said in a media statement. “After eight years of Trudeau, rents and mortgages have doubled, middle class Canadians are forced to live in tent encampments in nearly every city across the country, and his inflationary taxes and spending have driven up interest rates, causing more hurt for Canadians.”

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