Ford: get own house in order

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Since the 2022 provincial election, we’ve heard a lot about how the Doug Ford government is going to build more housing in Ontario.

One key policy the province has put forward to help boost the housing supply is Bill 23, which sees freezing, reducing and exempting fees developers pay to build affordable housing, non-profit housing and inclusionary zoning units – meaning affordable housing in new developments as well as some rural units.

But if we look at a proposed affordable housing development for Minden Hills, the province has dropped its own ball.

Bill Switzer donated land to the Kawartha Lakes-Haliburton Housing Corporation to build affordable housing units along Hwy. 35 just south of the Minden Legion in a project that has been in the works since 2018.

Six years ago.

One of the biggest hurdles, if not the biggest hurdle, has been Ford’s Ministry of Transportation. Apparently, the MTO didn’t get Ford’s pro-housing memo as it has yet to sign off on this development.

First off, the MTO said the development needed a right turn taper.

Now, about three years later, it has determined that is no longer needed.

However, now that five units have been added to the project size – taking it to 35 from 30 – it is asking that a traffic impact study done in 2020 be updated.

More time. More money. More inefficiency.

At a Minden Hills council meeting last week, mayor Bob Carter voiced his frustration with the process. He said there have been two project redesigns, both instigated by the MTO. And now, the MTO has forced another design change and an updated traffic study, he said.

There may be money for affordable housing projects at both the federal and provincial levels. The 2023 federal budget announced the government’s intention to support the reallocation of funding from the National Housing Co-Investment Fund’s repair stream to its new construction stream, as needed, to boost the construction of new affordable homes for the Canadians who need them most.

Another thing that could help is the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus (EOWC) recent housing initiative, for which they are now negotiating for provincial and federal funding.

The EOWC appeared before County council this spring, about a new intra-regional housing initiative, aiming to bring almost 500 affordable rental units to the Highlands by 2031. The ‘Seven in Seven’ program aims to construct 7,000 new affordable rental units across 13 counties in eastern Ontario over the next seven years, with a tab of at least $3.1 billion.

However, all of these funders will be looking for shovel-ready projects. Without an MTO permit, the Minden project is not shovel-ready.

At a time when Ontario’s cost of living is making the building of affordable housing almost impossible – thanks to rising interest rates, the cost of building materials, and a shortage of labour – the MTO is doing Minden and its own government no favours.

So, instead of patting itself on the back for all of the housing the province purports it will build in Ontario, it’s time to eliminate the bureaucracy in its own ranks to pave the way for projects such as the one in Minden to come to fruition.