City commits to provincial housing plan despite misgivings
Despite real concern that the provincial Conservatives will not provide the funding for necessary critical infrastructure improvements, council approved the Kawartha Lakes Municipal Housing Pledge.
The pledge document details with great specificity what the municipality plans to do to ensure that 6,500 new homes are built in the city in the next seven years as mandated by Bill 23, the Building Faster Act.
CAO Ron Taylor presented the 28-page document, reminding council that they supported the housing targets proposed by the province for Kawartha Lakes at a meeting earlier this fall. Taylor told council that their pledge of 6,500 new homes built in the city by 2031 aligned directly with Bill 23 and its declaration that 1.5 million new homes would be built across the province in that time frame. Taylor said the municipal pledge would allow the city to access monies from the province to build and expand infrastructure, and that the document before council needed to be in the hands of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing by mid-December.
Taylor told council that 6,500 new homes is an achievable goal as those numbers are not too far off existing growth management studies city staff had produced. To receive its share of the $1.5 billion in provincial infrastructure funding which the Ford government says is available, Kawartha Lakes needs to build a minimum of 80 per cent of the homes demanded by the province in each of the next seven years. Bill 23 sets targets of 477 new builds in Kawartha Lakes in 2023, 542 new builds in 2024 and 650 new builds in 2025.
“There will be a leap forward between 2026-2028 when we will need to build 1,000 units a year,” Taylor said.
“Details of provincial funding is still unknown,” Taylor said. “We really need to get started today. We need to reprioritize certain projects to ensure they get done now to support development in the near term.”
Taylor said that infrastructure like a new water/sewage treatment plant for Lindsay would be a five-year build, and that “2031 will come very quickly.”
Taylor made it clear to council that Kawartha Lakes needs more than just money from the province for infrastructure to support these new subdivisions.
“We can’t do this alone,” Taylor said. “We need support from the province on many levels. We need regional transit connections to the GTA and Peterborough. We need an expansion of health services. We need provincial highway expansions. We will need on-going provincial investment in childcare spaces, community and supportive housing, long-term care beds, emergency services and more.”
Taylor said the pledge document lays these needs out clearly, hopefully reminding the province that the municipality relies on provincial funding and services and while they are a partner in building these new homes Kawartha Lakes needs support from the province.
Councillor Eric Smeaton asked Taylor if the proposed growth will necessitate the need for new water and sewage treatment facility in Lindsay. After being informed by Taylor a new plant is all but guaranteed, Smeaton wanted to know more about what the province is bringing to the table.
“Where is the guaranteed provincial commitment?” Smeaton asked.
“There is no commitment in place today from the province,” said Taylor. “The city is making a pledge. The province is aware they need to invest to make development possible. We want to be a partner (with them) in this process.”
Councillor Dan Joyce wondered if the document being sent to the province in December was still open for amending. If so, Joyce wanted stronger wording included about provincial investments that would increase the supply of primary care practitioners like family doctors.
Taylor assured Joyce his concern could be added to the pledge.
Joyce then asked for clarification about where most of the housing is going to be built by 2031, and then 2051.
Taylor responded that 80 per cent of the houses to be built by 2031 were Lindsay-based, and almost 100 per cent of the building that may occur between 2031 and 2051 will be Lindsay-centric.
Councillor Pat Warren told Taylor she had heard that some municipalities were negotiating housing target changes with the province and wondered if that was true.
“Targets are not changing,” Taylor said. “There are some Green Belt reviews only.”
Councillor Ron Ashmore asked if developers are going to build the schools and medical centres that this burgeoning development will require, concerned that otherwise citizens would be asked to foot those bills through taxation.
“We don’t have the power to tell them to build those kinds of things,” Taylor said.
Councillor Mike Perry asked Taylor if the city meets the 80 per cent build threshold each year of the pledge, will the city receive money from the province in all those years. Perry also asked if the money transferred by the province will be more than the province has already clawed back from the municipalities by changes to development charges in Bill 23.
“We should get a couple of million back a year from the province,” Taylor said. “We will be getting less back than we had before, even if targets are met.”
Councillor Emmett Yeo, a homebuilder himself, was visibly upset with what the province appeared to be willing to put on paper.
“How can we finalize this (pledge) when the ministry is making it up as they go? I fear we are going to get sideswiped (by the province) down the road.”
Warren wondered if there is any provincial money available for not-for-profit builds, and asked Taylor if federal money for housing could be accessed.
Taylor did not see provincial money in the offing for not-for-profit builds, but assured the councillor that the city will be pursuing federal assistance through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
After almost an hour of discussion, council voted by a majority to approve the Kawartha Lakes Housing Pledge, which with some revisions will be submitted to the province next month.