Hamilton's share of millions to speed housing development approvals 'not going to hurt'

Hamilton is likely to receive at best a couple million of the $45 million the province is setting aside for new housing funding specifically targeting development approvals.

During day one of the virtual housing summit on Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said the largest communities will get the money as part of initiatives to address the housing crisis and come up with ways to allow more families to buy homes.

“We know we need to better standardize processes and procedures across regions, and we know we need to improve data collection and reporting so we can better track progress where we can do better,” Ford said during the announcement.

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The premier and housing minister Steve Clark told big city mayors and regional chairs the Streamline Development Approval Fund will help 39 large municipalities approve housing applications more quickly in addition to a data standard for planning and development applications.

Clark admitted after the gathering the plan will help “remove red tape” but will not be the “silver bullet” to ending problems.

“Addressing Ontario’s housing supply crisis is a long-term strategy that requires long-term commitment, collaboration and coordination,” Clark said.

Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger estimates Hamilton will qualify for about $1.7 million of the funding and he concurred with Clark’s assessment telling 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton that it will help but not solve the issues.

“This is a complex, multifaceted multi-government issue that isn’t going to be resolved by … one investment, but clearly it’s not going to hurt,” Eisenberger said.

Eisenberger says the city has not received the details on what the money can be used for and will have to wait for that process before decisions are made as to where it should go.

The devil’s always in the details and we’ll check on that … obviously utilize it at the best possible way to have a positive effect on the the approvals process and or timelines in … approvals that we’re currently facing,” said the mayor.

Environmental Defense’s Phil Pothen agrees working on procedural obstacles amid the housing crunch like approvals will help, but the money is not likely going to make a huge impact.

“I have to say, $45 million is not really going to make a huge impact on the huge short staffing that we see across the planning departments of major municipalities,” said Pothen.

With Hamilton councillors voting to hold firm on the city’s urban boundary, and Oakville politicians doing the same this past Monday, Pothen hopes the summit will address that and exclusionary zoning – restrictions on the types of homes that can be built in a particular neighborhood.

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The land use and environmental lawyer insists there is enough land across many Ontario municipalities to last beyond 2050.

“No matter how much extra land that you open up to development, you’re certainly not going to speed up the construction of housing at the rate they have been going for the past eight years,” Pothen said.

The Ford government is expecting a report early this year from a housing affordability task force, which was appointed to look into measures to boost the supply of rental and ownership housing.

Figures in Ontario’s fall economic statement show year-to-date home starts were 16 per cent higher than in the previous year, and rental housing starts were 14 per cent higher.

Numbers suggesting how hot the province’s housing market is include the average home resale price which was 31.4 per cent higher in March 2021 compared to February 2020s pre-pandemic level.

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Ontario also collected about $3.7 billion in revenue from land transfer taxes – a number expected to skyrocket to more than $5 billion in 2021-2022.

Minister Clark did say on Wednesday changes to zoning rules to allow for more density are among many suggestions under consideration.

“We need housing of all types,” he said. “We need missing middle, we need that purpose-built rental, yes, we need single family as well. But we also need that mixture of homes that really reflects local communities.”

– with files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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