Peterborough city council says it is all in on its lofty housing targets after approving a pledge to reach 4,700 new units by 2031.
On Monday night, council endorsed the Municipal Housing Pledge, which allows the city to access Ontario’s $1.2-billion Building Better Faster fund, set aside to help municipalities build new homes. Ontario aims to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.
The endorsement will be forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We need to get this into the province by Dec. 15, but we need to also send a signal to the government of Canada,” Peterborough Mayor Jeff Leal said.
That signal means funding. The pledge also means the city needs to find new initiatives geared toward accelerating housing supply.
The housing target is part of Leal opting into Ontario’s new “strong mayor” powers. It permits municipal leaders to expedite housing developments and other provincial priorities and enables them to pass bylaws relating to housing with support of just one-third of councillors.
Last week, Leal launched a new task force to bring together developers and builders in a forum to look at ways to support the construction of housing and streamline the development application process.
“We can do things on our side of the ledger,” Leal said. “And we’re going to be very aggressive to make things as streamlined as possible to expedite building permits.”
A city staff report claims Peterborough is well-positioned to meet its set target. The report notes there are more than 6,800 housing units currently sitting in the development queue.
The report notes the figure does not account for recent pre-consultation and technical adequacy review applications, which account for approximately an additional 3,300 proposed housing units (2,700 units and 600 units, respectively).
However, some experts are skeptical of the target, including Rebecca Schillemat, executive director with the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders Association.
The association reports that only seven new housing units began construction in Peterborough over the last three months. The association also reports that from July through September, the city had 48 single-unit completions.
“There’s builders in the city that have been waiting 18 years for approval, so I don’t think the potential for 6,000 units means we’re actually going to have them all built by 2031,” Schillemat said.
Schillemat notes the city has a new wrench in its building plans after the province last week announced it was reversing the expansion of urban boundaries of some municipalities, including Peterborough. The city earlier this year had its Official Plan approved by the province.
Now the city has to essentially “start over,” Schillemat said.
“The province had done over 60 changes to the Official Plan so that does pause a lot of plans,” she said. “If things haven’t been approved and they were being approved under the Official Plan and now we don’t have one, it’s going to slow things up.”
City council will give final approval to the Municipal Housing Pledge at its next meeting before a response is sent to the province.
— with files from Robert Lothian/Global News Peterborough
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