Mapleton turned down for federal housing accelerator cash

Township continues push for meeting with minister on rejected arena funding application

MAPLETON – Council here has received word the township’s application for federal housing funding has been turned down.

In August, council approved a list of 11 potential initiatives to pursue as part of an application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF).

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

Its 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.

Among Mapleton’s proposed initiatives were: promoting urban boundary expansion, a comprehensive review of zoning bylaws to remove potential barriers to new housing, adding planning staff to reduce wait time and working with builders and tradespeople to create a streamlined pre-approval system for building permits.

At least seven proposals are required as part of HAF applications.

The agenda for council’s March 19 meeting included a letter from CMHC municipal relations specialist Daniel Kingsbury to Mapleton CAO Manny Baron explaining the township was not selected for funding through the HAF program.

In the letter, which noted more than 500 applications were received, Kinsbury offered to connect with the CAO to specifically discuss the program or the township’s housing objectives.

Baron told the Advertiser on March 20 the township has not followed up with CMHC officials about the HAF application, through which the town had been seeking about $8 million.

“We got declined. It is what it is,” he said.

However, Baron noted the township is still hoping to have discussions with another federal official, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser, regarding the township’s rejected application to the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Fund for money to upgrade the PMD Arena and Community Centre.

The proposed project, which includes a multi-court gymnasium with an elevated walking track and new entrance areas has been rejected by Infrastructure Canada twice, most recently in February, for not being “shovel ready.”

“We’re using a different type of engineering standard, that maybe the federal government and, to some extent the provincial governments, aren’t using … And that’s what we want to talk to Mr. Fraser about,” said Baron.

In a March 18 email to Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson, Fraser acknowledged the township’s request for a meeting and stated, “My office will reach out to you if an opportunity to meet arises. I look forward to engaging with you in the future.”

“Discussions with the federal government are not over,” stated Davidson at the March 19 council meeting.

“We’re going to continue with that and work to see that they will actually accept the shovel ready (definition) that we have been proposing to them,” said Davidson.

The township’s proposal involves using a “progressive,” rather than a “traditional” design build model.

Information provided by Cima explains a traditional design-build model involves separate procurements for engineering and construction services. The engineering service provider carries out detailed design resulting in a contract tender package with individual contract bid items.

By contrast, progressive design-build is described as “a collaborative approach between the owner and its contracting partner” and is delivered under a single contract.

Progressive models are intended to “identify, mitigate, and appropriately share” design, schedule and pricing risk through two-phases of project delivery.

Davidson has stated achieving the ministry’s definition of shovel ready would mean spending at least $400,000 on the proposed $10 million PMD arena project before submitting a funding application, said Davidson.

Using the progressive approach, he said, pre-application costs would be around $50,000.

Davidson told council Baron has been working with the township’s engineering consultants at Cima to prepare a resolution to take to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities calling on the government to change its definition of shovel readiness in its funding deliberations.

Davidson said the township wants to put a resolution on the floor “for all of Canada, because this is not specific just to Mapleton.”

The mayor added all small communities would benefit from being able to use the definition being proposed by Mapleton.

“So it’s not dead for us … there is still an opportunity for funding in the future,” he stated.