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Prime Minister stops in Guelph to announce new housing program

The Prime Minister was in Guelph Friday to announce the launch of the $4 billion federal housing accelerator fund

A couple weeks ago, Guelph council made a pledge to meet the province's housing goal, but called for help from upper levels of government and developers to do their part.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the delayed Grace Gardens housing project-in-progress on Woolwich Street in Guelph to announce details of the new housing accelerator fund, a pot of $4 billion over five years to accelerate the building of homes across the country.

Guelph mayor Cam Guthrie called the announcement a "game changer."

"With this fund, it is going to help not only cities like Guelph, but cities across our country," he said.

Municipalities won't be able to apply for the funding until June, when the application portal opens, and it's a five-year pledge.

Municipalities will have to send in their action plans on how it plans to accelerate home building in their communities.

Guthrie said he was thankful for what he called a first portion of money to achieve the housing targets set by the province, especially on the affordable housing aspect.

"One of the things municipalities have been saying over and over again is we're looking for a partner because it is, as the Prime Minister said, a complex issue," he said.

A complex issue he said requires an all-government approach, and it's a tough task ahead.

Last fall, the province announced a target of having 1.5 million homes built in Ontario by 2031. In Guelph, their share of the goal is 18,000 homes.

During a Feb. 28 council meeting, council agreed on some changes as it looks to attain its local housing goal.

That included making upper levels of government and the development industry held accountable to make changes in their end to help reach the target.

The fund, Trudeau said, is to fast track the building of 100,000 homes nationwide.

But looking at the local and provincial goals, are the targets achievable?

Trudeau was asked this question, and he answered with an immediate yes.

The PM said with the fund, he's giving the municipalities the tools to look at what is needed, whether it's overcoming zoning restrictions, discussing housing size limits near transit, or taking another look at how the permitting process needs to be done.

"Process is one of the big challenges on how to get things built," he said. "It's not sexy, it's actually easier for someone like (federal Conservative leader Pierre) Poilievre to say 'we're just going to get rid of process, we'll get rid of the gatekeepers, and then people will be building homes all over the place.'

"That's not how the world works, and I think people know that.

Trudeau said to increase housing supply seriously, and ensure it's affordable, you have to do everything at the same time.

"The big part of it is trusting the experts in the municipalities who are there hearing from residents and community organizations saying we need more homes, and figuring out how and where to build them," he said.

Guthrie said city staff will be busy the next few months, learning the criteria and logistics of the application process, and taking in webinars and seminars held through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

As for how much money Guelph would look for, Guthrie jokingly said he would try for the full $4 billion, but said it really depends on the projects or services they're looking to have changed.

One thing that bodes well for Guelph was the launch was made within its borders.

"It's nice to have Guelph recognized as a place to launch a national program," he said, adding it shows housing is an elevated topic of discussion in the city, and everyone recognizes it as an issue.

"I'm certainly very hopeful that when the Guelph application goes in, we'll (be able to) remind them a little bit that the announcement (was made) first here."


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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Originally from Timmins, ON, Mark is a longtime journalist and broadcaster, who has worked in several Ontario markets.
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