Ford government questions usefulness of fourplex policies citing low uptake

Click to play video: 'Federal government tells Ontario to follow rules or risk losing housing funds'
Federal government tells Ontario to follow rules or risk losing housing funds
RELATED: The battle between the Ford and Trudeau governments continues over housing. The federal government has promised to divide $5 billion between the country's provinces and territories but only if they meet certain conditions. Global News' Queen's Park Bureau Chief Colin D'Mello has the latest – Apr 12, 2024

The Ford government is questioning the efficacy of fourplex policies in Ontario, claiming that four units as-of-right isn’t the key to solving the province’s housing affordability crisis.

The province has been facing persistent calls to adopt a province-wide strategy that would allow developers to build four housing units on any property without prior municipal approval.

The policy was a key recommendation of the government’s housing affordability task force in 2022, but Premier Doug Ford has dismissed the strategy, calling it a “disaster” that would lead to complaints from neighbouring residents.

While the government has rejected the idea of imposing a blanket fourplex strategy from Queen’s Park, the province hasn’t restricted municipalities from implementing their own four units as-of-right policies.

On Monday, Housing Minister Paul Calandra claimed those municipalities that have adopted the policy haven’t experienced a dramatic increase in construction.

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“Well over seven million people in the province already live in communities where as-of-right four is the law,” Calandra said. “What we’re running into, though, is that this is not something that’s solving the crisis in any way shape or form.”

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Calandra pointed to Toronto, which adopted the policy in May 2023, as an example. He said that “less than 70 of these units have been built” in the city.

“I know in other communities, like Vaughan and Richmond Hill, zero have been built,” Calandra said.

The NDP, which called the Ford government’s recent housing bill “weak” and “unambitious,” said the province is risking billions in investment as a result of Ford’s fourplex concerns.

“Five billion dollars of federal money for housing is on the line because this premier doesn’t like a certain type of housing,” said NDP Leader Marit Stiles.

In early April, the federal government announced a conditional $5-billion housing infrastructure fund that would only be distributed to provinces that implement a range of measures including requiring municipalities to adopt four unit as-of-right policies and implement a three-year freeze on increasing development charges.

If a province doesn’t agree to the federal government’s conditions by Jan. 1, 2025, the Prime Minister’s Office said the funding would be transferred to municipalities instead.

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“That money is going to flow,” Trudeau said at a housing-related announcement in Woodbridge, Ont., on Friday.

“The only question Ontario has to ask is whether Ontario wants the money to flow through the province to municipalities or whether it flows directly to municipalities.”

Premier Ford, on Monday, said he doesn’t want to “overrule” municipalities that have outright rejected fourplex policies but said he would rather have a unified housing approach.

“We all want the same goal, we all want to build homes. Let’s work together, you’ll get a bigger bang for your money,” Ford said at an unrelated news conference in Milton.

Ford said his preference would be for the funding to flow through the province rather than the federal government cutting out the province.

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