June 25, 2024

Housing Finance Development

It's Your Housing Finance Development

Ontario housing legislation may thwart Niagara’s efforts to build affordable homes

Provincial legislation intended to fast-track construction of thousands of homes in Niagara might instead hamper efforts to build homes residents can afford to live in, Niagara Regional Housing warns.

While Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, waives development charges for some projects, including affordable housing, NRH chief executive officer Donna Woiceshyn said the agency uses development charges to finance the affordable housing units it builds.

“If development charges aren’t being collected, we have to find new ways to fund some of the new builds that are going to be anticipated,” Woiceshyn said at Niagara Region’s public health and social services committee meeting Tuesday.

Region Chief administrative officer Ron Tripp said Bill 23 “represents a $60-million loss of funding for affordable housing.”

In an email, Region Chair Jim Bradley said the Region’s total losses will likely exceed $200 million over the next decade.

“Staff estimate that the Region would need to increase property taxes by 11 per cent a year just to make up for the total impacts of the provincial legislation,” Bradley said.

With the development charge revenue taken away through Bill 23, Bradley said regional council “will be forced to either make up this significant shortfall through substantial property tax increases or decide to abandon projects that are no longer affordable.”

The provincial government has said there should be no cost shortfall for housing infrastructure as a result of Bill 23, if municipalities meet targets for new housing developments. In Niagara, those targets include 8,000 homes in Niagara Falls and 11,000 in St. Catharines to be built in the next decade.

But Bradley said the Region has yet to hear any additional information from the province regarding new funding to make up for the lost revenue.

He said ongoing NRH construction projects are not being impacted by the legislation, adding developments generally cannot begin “until we know how the entire project will be financed.”

There are, however, “numerous anticipated builds that will be directly impacted by the expected loss of revenue,” Bradley added.

“These impacts could see vital projects significantly delayed or potentially removed from the infrastructure schedule all together,” he said. “Our finance team is currently forecasting the impacts on planned projects and that information will be shared with council as is becomes available.”

During the committee meeting, St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe, vice-chair of NRH, said the need for housing is critical.

“If the levels of government that are supposed to be giving us the dollars aren’t, I can continue to argue with them, but I have to actually get something built as well,” he said.

Siscoe said most people understand “more housing is the answer,” but “if need be, we have to go to the levy because this problem is past the crisis point.”

“It’s been at a crisis point for a number of years.”