Ford expanding strong mayor powers to more cities, offering funding to those that meet housing targets
Published Monday, August 21, 2023 11:47AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 21, 2023 11:47AM EDT
Ontario is expanding its strong mayor powers to 21 more cities while providing municipalities financial “rewards” if they are able to meet housing targets.
The announcement was made at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual conference on Monday morning.
Speaking in London, Ont., Premier Doug Ford said he hopes to achieve at least 110,000 new housing starts in 2023.
“It would be the first time in over three decades that Ontario surpassed the 100,000 threshold,” he said.
“From there, we’ll ramp up over time until we’re on track to build at least 1.5 million homes.”
The government will be setting up a three-year, $1.2 billion fund that will provide up to $400 million per year to municipalities that have committed in writing to achieving certain housing targets set by the province.
Each city’s progress will be evaluated by comparing housing starts and residential units created that calendar year with the annual assigned targets.
The government said municipalities that achieve 80 per cent or more of their annual target will be able to access the funding.
Those that do not, will get nothing.
“Here’s the best part. Municipalities that exceed their target, that do better than 100 per cent, get a bonus,” Ford said.
Money from the "Building Faster Fund" is expected to be used towards "housing-enabling infrastructure and other related costs that support community growth."
The province said they will work with the AMO to determine exactly what kind of community and housing support is needed.
The announcement comes after many municipalities expressed concern at the loss of funding typically collected from developers when construction is proposed.
Bill 23, or the “More Homes Built Faster Act,” allows certain residential homes, apartment buildings and affordable housing to be exempt from additional fees such as development charges, parkland dedication levies and community benefit charges. Family-sized rental units will also see development charges reduced by up to 25 per cent.
Cities collect development charges to help pay for the cost of municipal services or impacted infrastructure such as roads and transit.
The AMO has previously said the changes could leave communities about $5 billion short, resulting in higher property taxes or service cuts.
Housing Minister Steve Clark promised to make municipalities “whole” following a third-party audit of their finances.
Officials confirmed the “Building Faster Fund” is separate from the minister’s audit pledge and will not impact any money previously earmarked for municipal infrastructure. The funding is a separate incentive program for cities to meet their targets.
Colin Best, AMO President Colin Best said in a statement Monday the program is "an important step toward addressing the gap in municipal infrastructure funding created by Bill 23."
However, the AMO also said that changes to the Development Charges Act will create a funding shortfall of at least $1 billion annually for Ontario municipalities.
Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said said the funding doesn't come close to replacing the revenue municipalities are learning under Bill 23.
"It’s more than a little backwards to effectively punish municipalities for not building housing when they don’t have the funding or the provincial partner they need to do so," she said in a statement.
50 CITIES WITH STRONG MAYOR POWERS
The province is also expanding its strong mayor powers to 21 more cities. These cities, the province said, are projected to have populations of 50,000 by 2031.
Among the list include Halton Hills, Aurora, Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough, North Bay and Sarnia.
Strong mayor powers were first introduced in Toronto and Ottawa last year, and give the head of council the ability to propose and amend bylaws related to provincial priorities. If council wants to override a decision, they require a vote of more than two-thirds of its members.
The government has defined provincial priorities as being anything that relates to the building of housing, including the construction and maintenance of related infrastructure such as transit and roads.
These priorities could change in the future.
Mayors of these cities can also prepare and table their city's budget instead of council, and hire and fire department heads.
The 21 new mayors will get their new powers as of Oct. 31.
There are now 50 cities in Ontario whose mayors have these additional veto powers