Mississauga is pledging to meet the province’s assigned target of building 120,000 new homes over the next decade, but Mayor Bonnie Crombie warned it will only succeed if Ontario and Ottawa help fund associated infrastructure needs, including roughly $1.3-billion in transit projects.
Councillors approved an action plan Wednesday, outlining how the city intends to meet the target as part of the provincial government’s efforts to build 1.5 million new homes by 2031. Legislation passed in the fall requires the 29 largest municipalities to submit a pledge this month on how they intend to meet the individual goals set by the province and provide annual progress reports.
In December, Toronto City Council approved the housing plan proposed by then-mayor John Tory to build a targeted 285,000 homes. Initiatives include increasing density by expanding housing options in neighbourhoods currently restricted to single-family homes and legalizing rooming houses across the city.
These actions from the province and municipalities are in response to a housing supply and affordability crisis as they grapple with how to quickly increase the number of homes available for the growing population and keep costs down amid a time of high inflation and a rising cost of living.
Mississauga’s plan includes expanding the types of homes that can be built across from the city, known as inclusionary zoning, to allow for more duplexes, garden suites and garage conversions. It also focuses on increasing development along transit corridors and prioritizing affordable housing projects.
Speaking to media, Ms. Crombie noted focusing on building single-family detached homes is no longer sustainable because the city doesn’t have enough land and there needs to be a shift to multi-unit housing, though that doesn’t always mean “megatowers.”
Ms. Crombie said these actions allow for the construction of 120,000 new homes within Mississauga’s current boundaries, but not without accelerating the construction of large transit projects to serve the growing population.
Necessary transit investments to support the growth – including a new electric-bus garage, a downtown LRT loop and new buses – are expected to cost roughly $1.3-billion, the plan outlines. This doesn’t include other potential infrastructure needs, such as roads, community centres, parks and fire stations.
“We cannot do this alone. Cities can put our foot on the gas, but we need fuel in the tank in order to cross the finish line,” Ms. Crombie said. “This is a massive undertaking and will only succeed if the provincial and federal levels of government join us as partners by providing the proper funding for infrastructure.”
Ms. Crombie didn’t provide a specific figure when asked how much the city is willing to foot the bill for the needed transit projects and the expectation of what the other levels of government should cover.
These infrastructure projects are typically largely financed by fees paid by developers to municipalities to cover these costs, known as development charges. Municipal revenues from these charges are expected to decline as a result of the new provincial legislation, which significantly cuts these fees for affordable housing and rental projects.
The City of Mississauga estimates up to $885-million in reduced revenues over the next decade as a result of the changes, which would need to be paid up through a tax hike or reduced service levels. Ms. Crombie, who also serves as chair of the Ontario Big City Mayors Caucus, has spoken out against the reduction in development charges and has been calling on the province to reconsider.
“We also need the important money we receive through development charges to ensure that long before cranes are in the sky, we can get all the pipes and servicing ready,” she reiterated Wednesday.
Premier Doug Ford has previously taken aim at Ms. Crombie and other mayors who have voiced concern about the province’s plan, telling reporters in December that they should “get on board” and “stop whining.”
Following significant pushback, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said the government would launch independent audits of select municipalities to determine what the financial impact would be with the cuts to development charges. Mr. Clark pledged that municipalities will be “kept whole” and the province would cover any shortfalls in funding housing-related infrastructure. These audits have yet to be conducted.