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Ford, Trudeau governments on collision course over conditions for housing funding | CBC News



Premier Doug Ford doubled down Wednesday on his refusal to force municipalities to allow fourplexes on residential land, a move that could jeopardize Ontario’s access to billions of dollars in federal housing funds. 

“It’s not up to the province to dictate where every single building is going to go,” Ford told reporters during an unrelated morning news conference in Vaughan. 

“I believe in letting municipalities determine what is good for their communities and what is not good for their communities,” he added.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has earmarked $6 billion in new money for infrastructure to help provinces and territories tackle the national housing crisis. Most of that funding, however, will come with conditions.

Chief among them is that provinces require municipalities to allow the development of four-unit residential dwellings, in some cases up to four-storeys tall, “as of right” — meaning no bylaw amendment would be required for construction or conversion to move forward.

Some Queen’s Park observers speculated such a measure might be included in the province’s forthcoming housing bill, which is expected to be tabled in the coming weeks. But just days before Ford presented his 2024 budget on March 26, he shot down the idea.

Ford told reporters during a stop in Hamilton communities would “lose their minds” and “wouldn’t stop screaming” if fourplexes were permitted as of right provincewide.

Ford’s previous comments drew backlash from federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, who said that “Ontario had an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to build more homes and take the housing crisis seriously” but instead “chose red tape and the status quo.”

WATCH | What exactly qualifies as a fourplex?:

Last week, Premier Doug Ford said a province-wide fourplex policy is “off the table” for his government, and that municipalities can decide for themselves if they’d like to build the properties. CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp visited a house that is being turned into a fourplex, and spoke to the homeowner who believes the idea can help with the housing crisis.

Feds willing to work with municipalities directly

Some Ontario cities such as Toronto and Mississauga have already moved to permit fourplexes as part of their efforts to access money from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. That money is provided via direct agreements between Ottawa and municipalities that bypass provincial governments. 

Speaking in Toronto Wednesday, Trudeau said the new infrastructure funding would be made available to municipalities that accept the federal conditions, even if provincial governments do not.

“We are going to continue to work with municipalities that want to work with us, with $6 billion in infrastructure investments to allow more housing to get built,” Trudeau said. 

“We would love to do that right across [Ontario], but if the province doesn’t want to step up with ambition on building the infrastructure needed to support more housing in general across the province, we’ll do it specifically with willing partners.”

The Ford government’s 2022 More Homes Built Faster Act allowed for up to three units on most residential land zoned for one home. While Ford said Wednesday he is open to working with the federal government, planning decisions related to fourplexes would be up to municipalities.

“I am going to leave that up to each municipality to decide because they know better than the province and the federal government,” he said, adding that his recent budget also includes $1.8 billion for housing-related infrastructure.

“I have all the confidence in the world in the mayors and councils to put homes where they belong.”

The latest public disagreement between the federal government and Ontario comes as the province looks to build 1.5 million new homes by 2031. Private-sector forecasts included in the 2024 budget show the pace of housing construction is picking up, but still far off the levels needed to reach the provincial target.

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