Mayoral candidate Josh Morgan pledges 50,000 new homes for London, Ont.

Mayoral candidate Josh Morgan addresses a crowd of supporters inside the Grand Theatre during an unveiling of his campaign's platform on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Andrew Graham / Global News

During a platform unveiling on Wednesday, mayoral candidate Josh Morgan promised to build 50,000 new homes in London, Ont., within a decade, 10,000 of which will pop up downtown,

It’s one of several ambitious goals included in the 24-page plan, which can be read in full on Morgan’s campaign website.

The platform focuses on five pillars – housing and affordability, mental health and addictions, inclusive city and safe, vibrant neighbourhoods, climate change and economic prosperity.

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Housing and affordability

“This is something we have to set a bold target on,” Morgan said of his pledge to build 50,000 new homes.

He says the current London Plan, which sets the policy framework for all planning in the city, would only allow for 20,000 homes over the next 10 years, so an update to that document will also be needed.

Morgan’s platform looks to incentivize developers and the building of affordable housing while keeping property taxes low, with the city absorbing inflationary pressures in the future through multi-year budgeting and cost-cutting service reviews.

Another idea includes supporting the redevelopment and expansion of London and Middlesex Community Housing, pursuing federal funding to pilot “senior friendly living” communities to open homes for young families and developing a rent-to-own program for home ownership.

Mental health and addictions

If elected, Morgan says he’ll call for an emergency meeting with the Ontario government that would focus on mental health, addictions and the state of urban downtowns, reiterating a call from Ontario’s Big City Mayors group.

“We need to talk about how we’re going to work together to tackle this challenge and we need to come up with concrete solutions that are not just for London, but for all of the cities of Ontario that are facing a very similar challenge,” he added.

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Morgan has several other requests he intends to ask the province that relate to this matter, including alternate drop-off locations for land ambulance and police, the creation of a local paramedic dispatch system, the creation of a dedicated mental health emergency centre and other related spaces, and permanent funding for the London Police Service’s COAST team.

The mayoral candidate also wants to create at least 200 new housing spaces equipped with comprehensive wraparound services and increased stabilization space capacity.

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“We had a very siloed approach to lobbying for initiatives and yet we’re all impacted by mental health and addictions,” Morgan said, adding that he’ll advocate to the province with a committee compromised of city staff, front-line agencies, local hospitals and emergency services.

Inclusive city and safe, vibrant neighbourhoods

Drawing from unused reserve funding, Morgan promises to make a $4-million capital investment into the city’s neighbourhood parks, as well as it recreational facilities and services.

Morgan wants to double the budget for the Neighbourhood Decision Making program, which received $250,000 for winning ideas during in the 2022 campaign, and animate areas around the city with new murals, artwork and live performances.

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A focus on implementing recommendations from the city’s community diversity and inclusions strategy is mentioned, along with implementing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on a municipal government level.

Morgan supports new investments for the London Police Service, including the service’s request for 50 new front-line officers which comes in response to a growing demand. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

On the safety front, Morgan wants to recognize London as a sex trafficking hub and take action to work towards solutions.

He also supports new investments for the London Police Service, including the service’s request for 50 new front-line officers which comes in response to a growing demand.

“How those officers will be deployed and the areas that they will be deployed is under the complete jurisdiction of the police chief and the police services board. What I expect as a funder of the police services is that this does achieve results for Londoners,” Morgan said.

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Climate change

The platform promises to implement the long-delayed Green Bin program as soon as possible. Currently, the curbside composting plan isn’t expected to arrive in London until July 2023 due to supply chain issues.

Support for London Transit’s ongoing electrification of its fleet is included, as well as a pledge to create more electric vehicle and e-bike charging stations.

Along with implementing the city’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, Morgan also wants to finalize London’s Master Mobility Plan within his first year of taking office.

This plan includes expanding the Intelligent Traffic Signal program, completing unfinished cycle lane loops, building new protected bike lanes and developing what Morgan calls “higher-order transit.”

“Higher-order could be additional (Bus Rapid Transit) lines, it could also be additional express routes, basically anything that flows people quickly from point A to point B… higher order just means beyond conventional,” Morgan said.

“If we’re going to look at a target of 50,000 new homes in the city of London, you absolutely have to approach the Master Mobility Plan process with a very open mind.”

Economic prosperity

The final pillar of Morgan’s campaign promises London’s potential future mayor will direct the London Economic Development Corporation to focus on attracting employers to fill vacant commercial office space downtown.

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A vacant building along Richmond Street as seen on July 18, one of several in the downtown core. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Carrying on Mayor Ed Holder’s vision of London as a regional transportation hub, Morgan wants to hold the province and Ottawa accountable for their commitments to improve Via Rail and GO service in the city, expand transit options to industrial lands and increase the number of direct flights in and out of London.

There’s also a pledge to strengthen Business Improvement Associations, develop a strategy to embrace London’s UNESCO designation as a City of Music and attract more film and television shoots in the city.

Lastly, Morgan also wants to secure a seat for London’s mayor on the Tourism London board and work to attract major events and talent.

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While there are plenty of promises, Morgan says he intentionally avoided specificities in his platform as he is “realistic about how local government works.”

“To get very, very specific about every single aspect of the platform at this point in time would be very disingenuous to all of those candidates who have put their name forward,” Morgan said.

“Each of those elected representatives is going to get one vote on council. I’m going to be collaborative, I’m going to pull people together and we’re going to have a common vision for the city.”

Alongside Morgan, nine other candidates are in the running for council’s top job: Brandon Ellis, Daniel Jeffery, Dan Lenart, Norman Robert Miles, Carlos Murray, Joanne Nichols, Sean O’Connell, former London-Fanshawe Liberal MPP Khalil Ramal and Sandie Thomas.

Election day is Oct. 24.

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