Ford government begins boosting housing numbers with LTC beds, basements

Click to play video: 'Unconventional spaces counted towards Ontario’s housing goal'
Unconventional spaces counted towards Ontario’s housing goal
WATCH: The Ford government has officially started counting long-term care beds and basement units toward its overall goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031, significantly boosting its housing supply numbers. Global News Queen's Park bureau chief Colin D'Mello reports – Feb 23, 2024

The Ford government has officially started counting long-term care beds and basement units toward its overall goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031, significantly boosting its housing supply numbers.

According to the province’s housing tracker, there were 109,011 “new homes created in Ontario” in 2023 — representing 99 per cent of the government’s target of 110,000 homes.

A provincial breakdown of those numbers, however, shows the Ford government counted 9,835 long-term care beds toward its 2023 figures.

Here’s how the province reached the 109,011 figure:

  • 89,297 housing starts (new units currently under construction)
  • 9,879 additional residential units (laneway, garden and basement suites)
  • 9,835 long-term care beds (new and upgraded beds in long-term care homes)

In October 2023, Housing Minister Paul Calandra issued a letter to municipalities clearly outlining the government’s intent to count laneway and basement units along with long-term care beds toward its overall housing targets.

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“Performance against these targets will be evaluated based on housing starts, as defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Starts and Completions survey, as well as additional residential units (for example, basement units) and other institutional housing types (such as long-term care beds) created in a given calendar year,” the letter said.

Mike Moffatt, who closely tracks housing data with the Smart Prosperity Institute, said at the time that the province was taking a “broad view” of what counts as housing.

“Including long-term care beds in the housing start numbers basically waters down the targets somewhat. It makes the target less ambitious than it otherwise would be because you’re including this whole separate category,” Moffatt told Global News in October.

Jessica Bell, the Ontario NDP’s housing critic, said the government “might be doing some creativity with numbers” but agreed that long-term care beds count as a home.

“I do consider a long-term care home bed to be a home, especially if we address the staffing shortage and ensure that there’s personal support workers and nurses available to provide that person with care,” she said.

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The beefed-up data now means the government is closer to the goal of building 1.5 million homes by 2031.

In January, the housing tracker showed that 185,337 homes had begun construction since 2022. As of Thursday, that number had grown to 216,227, with changes to how the numbers are recorded appearing on the government’s website.

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The moving definition of new housing was on display in Brampton on Friday.

At a morning press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the city “broke ground” on more than 7,000 new homes in 2023, handing Brampton a cheque for $25.5 million.

“Brampton’s progress in building homes is just absolutely incredible and so is this mayor and the council — they’re getting it done,” Ford told reporters on Friday.

Officially, according to the province’s tracker, the city achieved 7,028 — or 85 per cent — of its 8,287 new housing starts target for 2023.

Tracking by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), however, shows Brampton broke ground on just 2,903 new housing units in 2023.

The Ministry of Housing said Brampton’s numbers were: 2,903 new housing starts, 3,965 additional residential units and 160 long-term care beds.

“If we are going to tackle the ongoing housing supply crisis, we need to encourage all types of housing, including additional residential units,” a spokesperson for the ministry said.

“Our government previously introduced changes through Bill 23 to allow up to three units to be allowed on a single residential lot to encourage this exact type of gentle intensification; we are glad to see the City of Brampton embrace this approach.”

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Sources tell Global News most of the city’s extra housing units are basement dwellings.

“We are very much determined to hit our housing goal that was established by the province: 113,000 new residential units over the next 10 years,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said.

“Our commitment in this city to building housing is one that is determined and genuine.”

CMHC data shows that Brampton’s 2,903 housing starts in 2023 sit just below its 10-year average of 2,920 new units and significantly lower than the 20-year average of 3,587 new starts.

Brampton is not the only city meeting or exceeding the province’s targets without making meaningful progress in the number of CMHC-measured housing starts.

The City of Ottawa broke ground on 9,402 new units in 2021 and started 10,077 units in 2022. Those numbers slipped to 8,632 housing starts in 2023, according to the CMHC.

Ontario’s housing tracker, on the other hand, credits the city with 10,313 new units and beds, suggesting more than 1,600 new units come from long-term care beds and other accommodations.

The City of Mississauga, which is lagging behind on housing starts at 39 per cent of its target, has written to the province to complain the system is unfair.

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In a letter to Calandra, acting mayor Joe Horneck said his city had been told it would not get any funding boost from the province. He said the decision showed the need to focus on “meaningful and accurate” data to track housing.

“Mississauga can and will continue to encourage development and approve units,” the letter said.

“However, if the industry chooses not to start construction, if landowners choose not to submit development applications, our residents should not be penalized for something outside of the city’s control.”

Ford has repeatedly held up Mississauga, where his Liberal rival Bonnie Crombie was mayor for three terms, as an example of a city failing to hit its housing targets, pointing to 2021 census data that shows the city’s population dropped by 0.5 per cent.

Again on Friday, Calandra took aim at the city.

“We need communities like Mississauga to get on board, start building the homes for people, the people that need it,” he said.

“We’re bringing people to the province, we need people, we have jobs to fill and we need all communities to get on board and help us build those homes.”

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