Budget-time housing promises made prior to the election look set to come to fruition, with Steve Clark, MPP of Leeds - Grenville - Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, officially returning as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as Premier Elect Doug Ford announced his incoming cabinet today.
As the Progressive Conservatives come into their second term with a larger majority, Ontarians are keen to see how they’ll deliver on the agenda outlined in their previous time in office; in a release, Premier Ford said priorities will focus on the building of highways, transit, and the Ring of Fire, as well as restoring the province’s full economic potential.
“With big challenges ahead, including an uncertain global economic climate, now is the time for unity and working together,” he said in a statement. “Our government will be relentless in delivering on our ambitious plan to grow our economy and build infrastructure as we leave no stone unturned when it comes to solving the historic labour shortage. It’s all hands on deck.”
The provincial government faces a number of hurdles, including a healthcare system in dire need of rebuilding following the pandemic, as well as impending contract negotiations with the education unions. Underpinning it all is rapidly rising inflation that has eroded both consumer spending power and the ability to fund new construction and development -- key to the government fulfilling its promise to create 1.5M new housing units over the next decade.
Richard Lyall, President of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), congratulated Minister Clark on his role, and expressed optimism that the government will continue to hold the housing file to this goal.
“We are looking forward to working again with Steve Clark in his role as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. With Ontario’s population surpassing 15M, it is important that industry and government work together to achieve the goal of building 1.5M new homes over the next 10 years. Implementing recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force will help achieve that target. We are eager to engage with the Minister on a path to implementation of all 55 recommendations,” Lyall stated.
He also congratulated Monte McNaughton, who is remaining in his role of Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills and Development; RESCON has been vocal about the need for immigration to offset the impending skilled labour shortage, as over 100,000 construction workers are anticipated to retire over the next decade.
“He has been a champion for getting more people into the trades, including young people and underrepresented groups. We are looking forward to engaging with him to ensure that we have a sustainable supply of skilled labour to build much-needed new homes,” Lyall states. “This will require both domestic recruitment and retention, as well as reforming the Ontario Immigration Nominee Program to allow more immigrants to come to Ontario to work.”
In their previous term, the Ontario PCs unveiled a number of housing initiatives such as the More Homes for Everyone Act, which included measures to stem speculative housing activity, strengthening homebuyer protections, and incentivize municipalities to streamline their development approval processes. However, the province has come under fire from housing consumer groups who have pointed out that affordable housing and rental issues have largely been left out of the plan.
There has also been criticism that at Budget time, the province failed to move forward on key items outlined in the Housing Affordability Task Force (HATF), such as the removal of exclusionary zoning in residential neighborhoods as an effort to create more housing supply.
Affordable housing advocacy group More Neighbours Toronto has called for the province to revisit the HATF as it embarks on its mandate to build, especially following a report from CMHC this week, that forecasts the nation will fall 3.5M homes short of its 2030 goal.
"The CMHC's report confirms that housing construction is not keeping up with Ontario's population and that a massive increase in housing construction is required for widespread housing affordability in Ontario.” said Eric Lombardi, an advocate with More Neighbours Toronto, in a release. “It’s time to ignore local peddlers of the anti-housing agenda and secure significant provincial reforms immediately.”