Municipalities concerned with lack of funds for housing support

MINTO – While it didn’t result in any official action, councillors here expressed support for several pieces of correspondence calling on upper levels of government to provide more funds to help small municipalities deal with housing issues.

One motion received at the March 19 Minto council meeting, from the City of Quinte West, called on the federal government to re-evaluate funding for municipalities with populations under 50,000 in rural Ontario and “to make available funding … to help build infrastructure to help build much-needed new homes.”

The Quinte West motion also asked the provincial government to invest more than the currently-allocated $200 million into its Housing Enabling Water Systems Fund.

The motion indicates the city is facing nearly $87 million in water and sewer-related infrastructure costs and was recently turned down for funds through the federal housing accelerator program.

While the city could apply to the provincial Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund, that fund has only $200 million available for the entire province and only provides a maximum of $35 million for any one project.

The motion states the city “cannot afford to increase water, sewer or tax rates to fund all of this infrastructure.”

A motion from the Township of Amaranth calls on the province to “pause advancement” on a proposed Highway 413 project and redirect the projected $8 billion cost to support municipal infrastructure costs and housing construction initiatives.

Amaranth also asks that at least 50% of redirected funds be allocated for small urban and rural Ontario municipalities with populations less than 50,000. 

A third motion, from the Town of Bracebridge expresses support for a call from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) for the provincial government to commit to undertaking, “a comprehensive social and economic prosperity review to promote the stability and sustainability of municipal finances across Ontario.”

Minto council supported the AMO motion at a previous council meeting.

“I found some of the letters quite interesting and they have a unanimous voice that we all need some help financially to meet the infrastructure demands,” noted deputy mayor Jean Anderson, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Dave Turton.

“We must ‘get ‘er done’ and build housing, but we’re not getting a lot of financial support to aid us in our efforts to do so,” said Anderson.

“I don’t know if we want to add our voice to the others, or we just want to make a note that we agree and if they’re handing out funds we’d like some too.”

Clerk Annilene McRobb suggested council could pass a resolution of support, or the minutes could simply note the items were pulled for discussion.

“I’m just wondering if it’s an appropriate time to comment?” said councillor Judy Dirksen.

“Normally when a bill is being considered there is some period of time for public comment.”

“I don’t know if there’s ever a period where they’re saying ‘You can tell that you don’t have enough money to do your job.’ I think we’re at the point now where we’re saying ‘We can’t do everything that  you’re requesting of us without some assistance,’” Anderson responded.

Co-interim acting CAO Chris Harrow pointed out council has expressed similar concerns to the province in the past.

“I think you’ve been very vocal before. And I think a lot of municipalities at ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) and everywhere have brought that forward and the voice has been very loud. It’s just whether the government is listening to it,” said Harrow.

He recommended council members continue to ask local MPP Matthew Rae to deliver council’s message to the premier.

“I’m okay if we just note it in the minutes that (the issue) was acknowledged and we agree … that it’s faced by all the municipalities in Ontario right now, right across the country for that matter,” said Anderson.