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Ottawa wants to tie access to $6B in new housing funds to fourplex approval – National |


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new $6 billion housing infrastructure fund in Halifax for municipalities and provinces to speed up housing-related development.

And one of the conditions is that four-unit dwellings are allowed by default in municipal zoning rules, rather than being assessed on a case-by-case basis.

This is the top line in a host of conditions to access the funding, which also includes a greater push for “missing middle homes” such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and other types of multi-unit homes.

In addition, as-of-right, or pre-approved zoning must be given to homes in the upcoming Housing Design Catalogue to access the new federal funding.

All of this is part of the Liberal’s plan to pre-announce various budget measures ahead of tabling the government’s key fiscal document on April 16.

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Late last year, Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced plans to revive an old wartime housing program with the creation of a catalogue of prefabricated, factory-built home designs.

The goal is to standardize designs that can get through municipal project approvals more quickly, and make it easier for developers to build them in larger numbers.

Since taking over the portfolio, Fraser has been making a broader push for more multi-unit homes calling provinces and municipalities to “legalize housing.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has ruled out a recommendation from that province’s Housing Affordability Task Force that called for the pre-approval of such dwellings.

“You have to differentiate between putting four units in an existing house or your neighbour tearing down the house and putting a four-storey tower,” Ford said at a housing-related announcement in Hamilton on March 22.

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“But what I’m not for is putting four-storey, six-storey, eight-storey towers, right dead centre in a community with regular housing.”

Click to play video: '‘Premier NIMBY’: Critics blast Ford after he rules out fourplexes across Ontario'

‘Premier NIMBY’: Critics blast Ford after he rules out fourplexes across Ontario

The Liberal’s stated focus is to try and make the housing market fairer for millennials and gen Z.

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The overall goal of the infrastructure fund is to accelerate the construction of housing infrastructure like water, wastewater, storm drains and solid waste.

The proposed fund has $1 billion set aside for municipalities. The government says this is to “support urgent infrastructure needs” needed to build more houses.

The remaining $5 billion is set to be doled out through partnerships with the provinces and territories, so long as conditions are met.

What are some of the conditions?

In addition to the as-of-right development requirements, provinces must include a three-year development charge freeze on municipalities with a population of more than 300,000.

They must also adopt forthcoming changes to the National Building Code to support more accessible, affordable and climate-friendly housing options and implement measures for the government’s home buyer’s and renter’ bill of rights.

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Those are set to be included in the upcoming budget.

Provinces have a deadline of Jan. 1, 2025 to secure a deal with the federal government to access this funding, and the territorial deadline is Apr. 1, 2025. Any province that doesn’t get a deal will see their allocation of the funding go to the municipal stream.

In the upcoming budget, the Liberals also plan on adding $400 million to the $4.4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund. Over the last year, the government has been striking deals municipalities to access this funding to speed up the approval and construction of new homes.

According to government figures, 179 agreements have been struck with the goal of “fast-tracking” the construction of 750,000 homes over the next decade.

While no dollar figures are announced, the Liberals also signaled an upcoming public transit fund, where municipalities will need to make further zoning changes to get access.

Among the criteria, the elimination of mandatory minimum parking requirements within 800 metres of a high-frequency transit line, allowing high-density housing within 800 metres of such lines and post-secondary institutions, and complete a housing needs assessment for all communities with a population of more than 30,000.

With files from Global News’ Colin D’Mello

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