The mayors of Ontario's largest cities are calling on the Province to revise its eligibility requirements for the Building Faster Fund, alleging that it "unfairly penalizes municipalities."
The Ontario government announced the Building Faster Fund (BFF) back in August, promising to deliver a $1.2B incentive program to get municipalities to build more homes. Municipalities will be given funding dependent on the progress they make on the housing start targets allotted to them by the Province. Municipalities that exceed their target will receive a bonus.
"Think of it like this: if you get an 'A,' you become eligible for funding. If you do worse than an 'A,' you don't," Premier Doug Ford said at the time.
Ontario Big City Mayors (OBCM), an organization of 29 Ontario mayors of cities with a population of 100,000 or more, said in a release on Tuesday that they have sent a letter to Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra "asking them to reconsider and consult further on the funding requirements which look at housing starts as a determining factor."
Municipal leaders have long resented blame for low housing starts landing on their doorstep. While the Province and developers point to extensive bureaucratic red tape and lengthy approval processes as limiting housing starts, municipal leaders highlight the often thousands of housing units that they have approved that developers have made no movement on.
Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward, who also serves as Chair of OBCM, said at the time of the BFF's announcement that "it's critical that the targets are based on what municipalities can control — the issuing of permits."
"It is also critical to note that municipalities do not control housing starts," she continued. "We set policy and issue approvals. Developers build. They must continue with their permits once a municipality issues an approval."
In a letter to Meed Ward dated August 22 — the day after the BFF was announced — then-Housing Minister Steve Clark said "Ontario will be consulting with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Housing Supply Action Plan Implementation Team, and the City of Toronto on the program design details of the Building Faster Fund, including eligible expenses and ways to track the progress of municipalities."
Funding for the program is expected to start in 2024-25 based on performance in 2023.