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The federal government will add $15-billion to an existing low-cost loan program to spur rental apartment construction in its coming budget, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday, saying the new cash will help build at least 30,000 additional units.

The Apartment Construction Loan Program (ACLP) offers loans for developers who reserve at least 20 per cent of a rental project’s units for affordable housing. But the changes announced on Wednesday include a pledge to offer developers unspecified “flexibility” on those affordability requirements, as well as on energy efficiency and accessibility rules, alongside other amendments the government says are designed to fast-track applications.

Mr. Trudeau also said some of the money will be offered directly to provinces for their own home-building programs provided they meet certain conditions, only a day after several provinces criticized the federal government for intruding on their jurisdiction by attaching strings to funding for housing infrastructure.

Through a measure it calls “Canada Builds,” the federal government says it will offer some of the housing money announced Wednesday to provinces that launch plans similar to B.C.’s recent multibillion-dollar “BC Builds” initiative, to which Mr. Trudeau has already pledged $2-billion.

But to benefit, other provinces must also put up matching funds, target projects on government or non-profit-owned land and cut development approval times to between 12 and 18 months, instead of a process that can take two to three years or longer in some places.

Over all, the loan program will now total $55-billion, and aims to build 131,000 rental units by 2031-32. So far, $18.2-billion of the program’s budget has been committed to developers, according to the latest report from program administrator Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The loans will help develop a total of 48,298 rental units, according to the report.

The announcement, made on Wednesday inside the unfinished concrete walls of a rental housing tower under construction in Midtown Toronto, is the latest housing policy unveiled in advance of the federal budget coming on April 16.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government has been trailing far behind Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his party in published opinion polls, as the Opposition Leader has made the runaway real-estate market that has priced many Canadians out of home ownership a key talking point.

In an e-mailed statement, Scott Aitchison, the Conservative Party’s housing critic, pointed to the runup in housing prices and rents under Mr. Trudeau and accused the Prime Minister of doing “photo-ops” instead of getting housing built.

“Justin Trudeau’s response has been to reannounce a failed loan program which has only resulted in the completion of 11,000 homes over the course of seven years and create more bureaucracy which will raise the cost of housing even more,” Mr. Aitchison said.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister had unveiled other plans, also in the coming budget, to commit $6-billion to the municipal infrastructure, such as pipes and roads, needed to facilitate housing construction.

But for provinces to get their hands on a share of the cash, they must agree to conditions that include freezing the development charges municipalities levy on builders and allowing fourplexes on residential lots by default.

The conditions prompted pushback from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who has recently ruled out the blanket approval of fourplexes, and from other provinces. Some cities in Ontario and other provinces have agreed to allow them in exchange for funding from the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau repeated his vow to deliver his new housing funding directly to cities, instead of via provincial governments, if provinces fail to agree to his terms.

“If a province decides it doesn’t want to be ambitious on housing, that’s their decision. We’ll work with the municipalities within that province that are ambitious,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters.

Speaking to reporters in Vaughan, Ont., on Wednesday, Mr. Ford said he was prepared to work with the federal government but repeated his opposition to requiring municipal zoning to allow fourplexes.

“I’m going to leave that up to each municipality to decide. They know best,” said Mr. Ford.

The governments of Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan have also expressed concerns about federal encroachment.

In an e-mailed statement on Wednesday, Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister, Ric McIver, said he was concerned that Ottawa intended to deal unilaterally with the province’s towns and cities and warned that his government “intends to protect and ensure Alberta’s constitutional right to oversee the governance of Alberta’s municipalities” while still seeking “the best deal from the federal government.”

Quebec’s ministers of Canadian Relations and Housing – Jean François Roberge and France-Élaine Duranceau – again denounced the Liberal government’s involvement in a traditional area of provincial responsibility. “As well as uselessly adding bureaucracy, the initiatives of the loan programs presented by the federal government will require Quebec to spend amounts not anticipated by our financial framework. As always, we will undertake negotiations with the federal government in order for Quebec to receive its fair share,” they said in a joint statement.

In an interview, B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the province’s NDP government is not put off by Ottawa’s funding conditions as “most of those pieces that are suggested are things that we have already taken action on at a provincial level.”

Mr. Kahlon said he doesn’t understand Mr. Ford’s opposition to fourplexes as-of-right across the province, adding that in most neighbourhoods they are indistinguishable from a large single-family home.

“I am challenged when I’m hearing some of the rhetoric certainly that’s coming from Ontario,” he said. “I just think that if any province in the country is serious about addressing the challenges, the measures that are being discussed openly are just the basics, the bare minimums.”

With a report from Eric Andrew-Gee

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