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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference in Milton, Ont., on March 8.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is ruling out a policy to automatically allow fourplexes to be built across the province, arguing that it would be a big mistake to force them upon municipalities.

Mr. Ford, who has made housing a key priority of his government, said Thursday that some residents don’t want multiplexes in their neighbourhoods and his government is focused on building single-dwelling homes and townhouses.

“I can assure you 1,000 per cent, you go in the middle of communities and start putting up four-storey, six-storey, eight-storey buildings right deep in the communities, there’s going to be a lot of shouting and screaming,” Mr. Ford said in Richmond Hill, Ont., where he was making a prebudget announcement.

“That’s a massive mistake.”

The federal government has been pushing cities to change their zoning bylaws to allow fourplexes to be built “as of right” – ending exclusionary single-family zoning – as a prerequisite for accessing the Housing Accelerator Fund, which sends millions to municipalities to address the housing shortage. Mr. Ford was responding to a proposal from the Ontario Liberals to implement such a policy across the province.

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser released a statement Thursday panning Mr. Ford’s comments, noting the province’s own housing task force recommended as-of-right zoning for multiplexes.

“Ontario had an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to building more homes and to take the housing crisis seriously. They could have adopted their own housing task force’s recommendation to allow people to build up to four units on their own land without having to go through lengthy application processes,” Mr. Fraser’s statement said. “Instead, they chose red tape and the status quo.”

Fourplexes are typically in two or 2½ storey buildings – not six or eight – and the provincial task force said the province should allow units up to four storeys on a single residential lot.

Mr. Ford, who will release his budget next Tuesday, announced that his government will spend $1.8-billion on housing infrastructure, including more money for water systems. His government has repeatedly called on Ottawa to send more money to provinces for infrastructure costs. The provincial government has said it wants to build 1½ million homes by 2031.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has also railed against municipal “gatekeepers” who prevent houses from being built and has said he would issue financial penalties or withhold funds from cities that do not increase homebuilding by 15 per cent annually. His office did not respond to a request for comment about Mr. Ford’s remarks.

Dozens of cities, including Toronto and Mississauga, have loosened zoning rules to allow such properties and to access tens of millions in federal money. Others, such as Windsor, Ont., have rebuffed Ottawa’s request to open all neighbourhoods to what planners call gentle density, arguing residents should decide and raising concerns about the impact on sewers and other infrastructure.

Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra told reporters at Queen’s Park that the province won’t “micromanage” municipalities on their housing plans, and that cities have been calling for more infrastructure to get homes built. He said uptake on cities’ current ability to build three units hasn’t been as successful as many would have liked, with fewer than 21,000 units built.

“We have to do a heck of a lot better than that, and we’ll let municipalities make those decisions,” he said.

Opposition parties accused Mr. Ford of being the kind of politician he has long derided: a NIMBY, short for “not in my backyard,” who doesn’t want any change around him.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said she supports the fourplex as-of-right policy and called Mr. Ford’s comments “frankly outrageous” and “deeply insulting.”

“He’s sending a message to Ontarians that if you can’t afford a single-family detached home you’re not welcome in your community or your neighbourhood. It shows once again how completely out of touch this Premier and his government are,” she said.

Liberal MPP John Fraser said Mr. Ford leads a “NIMBY Conservative government” and labelled him a “NIMBY Premier.”

“They’ve been focused on taking care of their friends and insiders instead of focusing on the housing that Ontario families need,” he said.

Mike Moffatt, assistant professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont., and founding director of the PLACE Centre, a housing think tank, said he was surprised and disappointed to hear Mr. Ford’s comments.

“We need all housing types if we’re going to address this crisis,” Mr. Moffatt said in an interview.

“It’s so important for the province to set minimum standards for all municipalities. Because otherwise every municipality wants some other municipality to solve the problem.”

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