The Government of Canada has reached an agreement with the City of Surrey that would see British Columbia's second-largest municipality receive $95M through the Housing Accelerator Fund, the federal government announced on Wednesday.

The funding is expected to fast track 2,800 housing units over the next three years and spur the construction of more than 16,500 homes over the next decade.

Housing Accelerator Fund money is released in installments. After an initial installment, municipal governments must fulfill the requirements as outlined in their agreements — amending policy or approving new policy, as two examples — before further installments are released.

The agreement with Surrey will see the City commit to seven local initiatives "that enable a variety of housing forms and densities to meet the diverse needs of the community," according to the federal government.

"The funding will support zoning by-law amendments to allow higher density, multi-unit, and missing middle forms of housing. It will support incentive programs promoting high density development near rapid transit and affordable housing as well as policy changes to expedite development of below market housing."

Both actions appear to be referencing new legislation introduced by the Province in recent months — the small-scale multi-unit housing legislation and the transit-oriented development legislation.

Although those are not actions introduced by the municipal government, the federal government said in its announcement for Vancouver, which occured in mid-December, that the funding will help the municipal government meet the provincial requirements of the new legislation, which aligns with the federal governments, and that again appears to be the case for Surrey.

The announcement on Wednesday also noted that Surrey will "leverage reliance on professionals for delegated decision-making, expand the guaranteed permitting timelines program, and integrate technology to facilitate faster development and permit approvals."

Just before the new year, Surrey City Council approved changes to its development approvals process that would expedite low-density projects.

An announcement for Surrey, as well as Burnaby, was originally scheduled for late September, after Minister of Housing, Infrastructure, and Communities Sean Fraser sent letters to the mayors of both cities informing them that their Housing Accelerator Fund applications had been approved.

In a dramatic move, however, Fraser then suspended both announcements, citing concern that the Metro Vancouver Regional District — of which Surrey and Burnaby belong to — was proposing substantial increases to development cost charges, which the federal government views as a barrier towards building new housing.

Metro Vancouver ultimately approved the increases regardless, and no Housing Accelerator Fund announcements were made for any member municipalities until the ice was broken with last month's announcement for Vancouver. The City of Burnaby also received its announcement, for $43M, days later.

The Housing Accelerator Fund was first announced by the Government of Canada in 2021, but did not officially launch until earlier this year. The list of cities in British Columbia that have received funding now consists of Surrey, Burnaby, Vancouver, and Kelowna.

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