Council endorses initiatives for federal housing fund application

MAPLETON – Council here has endorsed a set of action plan initiatives designed to facilitate an application for federal housing funding.

At the Aug. 8 meeting, Johnathan Lampman of Colliers Project Leaders Canada presented council with an overview of 11 potential initiatives to pursue as part of an application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

The HAF is an application-based program introduced in the 2022 federal budget with a funding allocation of $4 billion until 2026-27. 

“The program is intended to drive transformational change within the sphere of control of the local government regarding land use planning and development approvals,” states a report to council from CAO Manny Baron.

“The fund’s objective is to accelerate the supply of housing across Canada, resulting in at least 100,000 more housing units permitted than would have occurred without the program.”

Lampman explained the CMHC requires applicants to propose a minimum of seven action plan initiatives that would facilitate addition of new residential units in the future.

However, he noted additional initiatives are advisable in case some don’t meet CMHC parameters.

Proposed initiatives include:

  • a comprehensive zoning bylaw review to remove any potential barriers and/or create zoning that is all encompassing (zoning as of right);
  • change land use policies and regulations to increase flexibility and include permissions for accessory dwelling units and reduce development charges for additional units;
  • promote density targets for built-up areas by infilling and the development of vacant land;
  • work with builders and tradespeople to create a streamlined pre-approval system for building permits and examine options aimed at continuous improvement and streamlining processes and procedures;
  • set up a promotion day with developers of modular home and tiny home developments;
  • promote urban boundary expansion and ensure capital planning will accommodate growth and development;
  • add planning staff to reduce wait times;
  • discount or pro-rate development charge fees based on square footage, to promote more attainable housing options;
  • create a partnership with the County of Wellington to leverage township land and create rental units, rent-geared-to-income units or tiny homes, etc.; and
  • evaluate the notion of a dedicated levy to address capital financial requirements.

Councillor Michael Martin pointed out the county already looks after social services and rent-geared-to-income housing. 

“I think they do a great job,” said Martin. “If we start double dipping, then all of a sudden our Mapleton residents are going to be paying twice for the same type of housing.

“I’m not sure I see a real need for creating an additional partnership.”

Martin also opposed concept of a dedicated levy.

“I detest the idea of a dedicated levy. I think it’s a scam. It’s just political semantics,” he stated.

“I think we already have a clear, transparent and predetermined (way to determine) where the funds are going simply through a budget process … So I think that’s just a way of raising taxes an additional two per cent.”

Mayor Gregg Davidson pointed out the proposed initiative does not commit council to imposing a dedicated levy.

“It’s evaluate the notion, not do one. And that is part of our strategic plan,” he noted.

The mayor also stated he believes there can be value in creating new partnerships through the county.

“Leveraging with the county, or partnering with the county, doesn’t always mean that the county is doing it, or the township’s doing it,” he explained.

“There are some private entities out there that are doing the same things that also need support, not financial support, but other kinds of supports, through the county and through the township, to get them going.”

Before a vote was called on a motion to receive the staff report and endorse the initiatives presented by Lampman, Martin proposed an amendment to remove the initiatives regarding partnerships with the county and the dedicated levy.

However, the amendment was not seconded, and the original motion was approved by council.