Housing crisis

Housing crisis a ‘complex challenge’, say city leaders

WATERLOO REGION — A housing summit held Wednesday between the Ontario government and municipal leaders was a “frank and candid” conversation about ways to help solve the housing crisis, Karen Redman said.

“It’s a very complex challenge,” said Redman, regional president.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said he’s heard “great ideas” from city leaders. He said the government would put a plan in place and put the ideas into practice.

“The housing supply crisis is hurting communities in all corners of our province,” said Clark. A similar meeting of rural municipal leaders will be held on Sunday.

Some of the measures include the end of exclusionary zoning, often referred to as the “missing middle”. The push is to see more varied forms of “soft density” such as duplexes and triplexes in single-family home areas and along major corridors near public transportation.

Other ideas include inclusive zoning referring to developments with more affordable housing units made available.

“We need to look at every opportunity that comes along that will result in a long-term, sustainable plan that will shovel the ground and get homes of all types built,” Clark said.

At the summit, Premier Doug Ford announced a new $45 million fund to streamline development approvals and cut red tape so housing applications move faster.

In addition, the province is working with municipalities to develop a data standard for planning and development applications to expedite the process.

The province also said municipalities could access an $8 million audit and accountability fund to help identify potential savings.

Other issues affecting housing and why some homes are not being built include labor shortages, supply chain issues, and material costs.

In the region, up to 36,000 units have been registered and approved but are waiting to be built, Redman said.

From January to June last year, $635 million was brought in through building permits in the region.

“We’re doing what we can to speed up the process,” said Redman, who chairs the advocacy group for Ontario mayors and regional presidents.

In addition to government money, legislative changes are needed. Other agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Grand River Conservation Area often comment on new developments but don’t work to the same timelines as municipal governments, she said.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said tackling the housing supply problem will require all levels of government as well as the private and nonprofit sectors to come together.

“It’s not just about home ownership. It’s about dealing with accessible housing as well as affordable housing,” Vrbanovic said.

“You need a supply so people can both come in if they’re new Canadians for example or move along the continuum, creating other places for people to come in at different points,” did he declare.

Vrbanovic said solving housing shortages will require a “paradigm shift” by all parties involved.