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'It’s a hot topic': Why Windsor is now manually counting each and every housing start

A house under construction on Lakeshore Drive in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, June 10, 2013. (Chris Campbell / CTV Windsor) A house under construction on Lakeshore Drive in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, June 10, 2013. (Chris Campbell / CTV Windsor)
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Data by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) indicates the city is falling behind its housing targets.

Those numbers are also cited by Sean Fraser - Canada’s Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities - in his Jan. 31 letter to the city rejecting its application to the Housing Accelerator Funding (HAF).

“It’s a hot topic,” mayor Drew Dilkens told council on Monday when noting housing is subject that came up recently during a so-called ‘big city mayors’ meeting.

According to the federal government, Windsor only permitted 346 units; well below the target of 953.

Jelena Payne, the city’s commissioner of economic development and innovation said the real number is actually 1,154 units for all of 2023.

The problem dates back to October 2023, according to Payne, when the city learned CMHC would start tracking the numbers.

“We immediately realized there was a discrepancy,” Payne said Monday. “We have spent the last couple of months reopening every single permit from 2023 and manually counting the number of units attached to every single permit.

Payne said they have had several meetings with CMHC and MMAH (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing) to “rectify those numbers” going forward.

“We now have an understanding of how these numbers are being calculated, tracked, measured, reported, the time they need to be reported by and that will be put in place moving forward,” said Payne.

She also told council they have a “dedicated person manually counting, manually checking, every month going forward.”

According to CMHC, a start is defined as the beginning of construction work on a building.

“This is usually when the concrete has been poured for the whole of the footing around the structure or an equivalent stage where a basement will not be part of the structure,” David Harris with CMHC media relations said in a written statement.

He said multi-unit structures are counted one the foundation is poured.

“For example, once a foundation is poured for a 20-unit building, 20 starts are counted,” Harris wrote.

CMHC said they base their data and determine the construction start, from building permits issued by each respective municipality.

CMHC won’t comment on how Windsor counts its starts, or the discrepancy between the figures.

Payne told council they are counting by the permits issued, not necessarily when the work begins.

“The City of Windsor is working with other municipalities in Ontario, AMO, MMAH and CMHC to define a reliable and prescribed measurement of a housing start that is the same for all municipalities across the province and its reporting to CMHC,“ spokesperson Jason Moore told CTV News late Wednesday.

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