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Deputy PM Freeland stops in Kitchener to announce new housing funding


Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland stopped in Kitchener Tuesday to announce a $400 million top up to the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.

It was one of a suite of a housing measures announced by the federal government the same day, in advance of the 2024 budget.

Freeland said the additional funding is aimed at allowing municipalities to cut red tape to build more homes faster.

“Because the best way to be sure everyone can afford a home is to increase supply and to do it quickly,” Freeland said.

Since launching the $4 billion fund last year, the federal government has signed agreements with 179 municipalities across the country, including Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Nationally, the Liberals say the funding will accelerate the construction of more than 750,000 homes over the next decade.

Freeland said in Kitchener, it will fast-track the construction of 1,200 new homes over the next three years and 37,500 over the next decade.

Chrystia Freeland tours a housing development under construction on Eighth Avenue in Kitchener on April 2, 2024. Freeland was in the city to announce a top up to the federal government's Housing Accelerator Fund. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Kitchener)

New infrastructure fund will need buy-in from provinces

Freeland also touted a $6 billion housing infrastructure fund the federal government plans to introduce in the upcoming budget.

The funding, which is meant to speed up construction and upgrade key components needed to support building more homes such as waste and water infrastructure, was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, is flanked by Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser, left, and mayor of Halifax Mike Savage while making a housing announcement in Dartmouth, N.S. on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

According to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the fund will include $1 billion for municipalities to address "urgent infrastructure needs," like improving wastewater, stormwater, and solid waste systems.

The remaining $5 billion will be set aside for the yet-to-be-negotiated agreements with provinces and territories.

The federal government will require provinces and territories to commit to a series of actions meant to increase Canada's housing supply in order to access the funding. Those including requiring municipalities to allow four units as-of-right – something Doug Ford has said he will not do.

Asked if the federal government would deny Ontario access to the infrastructure funding based on Ford’s opposition to fourplexes, Freeland did not answer directly but said the feds would be clear on their requirements.

“We are not mincing our words that that $5 billion is going to have strings attached, because we as a country need to get serious about getting more homes built faster,” Freeland said.

Provinces have until Jan. 1 to secure a deal with the federal government, while territories have until April 1. If they don't, their funding allocation will be transferred to the municipal stream.

Local mayors react

Waterloo Region mayors, who attended the federal announcement Tuesday, were in favour of the additional funding.

“We’ve been conveying to the federal government about the need for the investment in infrastructure so we can get more homes built faster, so the announcement today is an important step,” Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said.

“In Kitchener, as you know, in the last few weeks, we’ve done a number of policy initiatives that certainly are taking steps to fill the missing middle, and to allow as-of-right up to four units per property.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland makes a housing announcement in Kitchener on April 2, 2024. She's joined by local mayors and Liberal MPs. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Kitchener)

The Mayor of Waterloo said she’s pleased to hear the focus on the “missing middle” builds.

“A lot of these type of buildings and homes already exist. They’ve existed for years in our community, so it’s adding to that supply. Particularly things like fourplexes – they aren’t a new type of building. They exist in a variety of neighbourhoods already,” Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe said.

Green MP has concerns

Meanwhile, Green MP Mike Morrice said he’s not confident the announcement will actually help address the housing crisis.

“There doesn’t look to be any new money today to actually build housing, or to fund organizations in our community to build housing, or to fund the building of new co-op housing,” Morrice said.

“The deeply affordable housing that we need to see more supply of – I don’t see any funds today that would actually help get that built with the exception of a supplement to an existing fund that the City of Kitchener has already actually qualified for.”

Morrice said although the infrastructure funding is a positive, he’d like to see more money earmarked for deeply affordable housing.

With files from CTV National News Top Stories

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