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Federal housing minister explains why only 'most ambitious' cities get HAF funding

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Housing Minister Sean Fraser is adding context for his ministry’s decision to deny housing accelerator funding to Windsor a day after the city’s application was rejected by the feds.

Put simply, Fraser said Windsor’s pitch was not as ambitious as others across Canada.

“It's for the most ambitious cities across Canada when it comes to the housing reforms that we're hoping to see it actually end the housing crisis,” Fraser told CTV News Thursday from Ottawa.

In total, 540 communities across Canada submitted applications to the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), and Fraser said roughly 150 of those will be approved for funding.

He said Windsor’s application didn’t make the cut because the city did not allow fourplexes to be built as-of-right across the city.

“If they want to prevent a private landowner from building a fourplex to provide housing for more neighbors during a housing crisis, that's completely their choice,” Fraser said.

Windsor’s pitch was a “compromise” and included allowing fourplexes to be built but only in certain nodes of the city, 100 acres of land that the mayor says would have allowed 2,100 homes to be built.

“We think the plan we put forward would actually move the needle and see more housing built and allow densification in areas that makes sense,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

To date, 28 other cities have been approved and Fraser said the remainder of the successful applicants will be informed in the coming weeks.

Windsor will have to wait for other housing programs to apply for future funding from the federal government, he said.

“Their choice not to to move to more density in the manner that other cities have. The choice that I have to make is quite simple. Fund the more aggressive applications,” said Fraser.

Windsor is not alone. A few other cities will be denied for the same reasons but according to Fraser, most applicants bought into the Liberal’s plan.

Mayor Dilkens says council’s decision and missing out on millions to protect quality of life and city infrastructure is the will of the people, backed by the flood of phone calls he and other councillors have received from constituents.

“I think by and large, if you ask people in the city of Windsor their opinion on this matter, they would express it loud and clear that they don't want to see that happen,” said Dilkens.

In his denial letter, Minister Fraser referenced Windsor’s short-comings building housing, noting the city only permitted the construction of 346 units last year, which represents only 36 per cent of the city’s target.

The city refutes those numbers.

In a release Thursday, the city said it has issued a record number of building permits in 2023, resulting in the start of 1,154 housing units.

The city indicated there are various tracking mechanisms that upper levels of government use to track data, but its own numbers for housing starts show Windsor exceeded its pledged housing target by 21 per cent last year in an effort to build 13,000 housing units by 2031.

Minister Fraser said politics played absolutely no part in this decision.

“It’s not personal. It's not a political decision. I'm motivated by the desire to build as many homes as I possibly can with the resources that are at my disposal. And that's why you will see some cities funded and others that will be unsuccessful.”

He said if politics were at play, it would have been far too easy to say yes.

“We have a Liberal colleague in a battleground riding. If I were being political, I would probably dump cash in the riding that belongs to our party. It is not,” Fraser said. “My goal is to end the national housing crisis. I believe part of that demands that we change the way that cities build homes across Canada.” Top Stories

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