Whose Fault Is This Housing Crisis, Anyways? Stand Up, Municipalities!

We have all heard the hopeful solutions to our national housing crisis that are being offered up by our federal and provincial governments. And we have seen the result of their past promises: an ever-deepening housing crisis.

Silent during all of these tribulations have been our municipalities – the current, true gatekeepers of housing creation. Their primary response, through the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), has been to push the Province and the federal government to do more. At the same time, the AMO states they want more autonomy to deliver their own solutions rather than a “one size fits all” solution imposed by provincial or federal mandates. The AMO does not like LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) intervening in decision making. They want to make their own decisions without answering to another authority. They want the right to oppose new housing creation without any higher authority overruling them.

Looking into the federal and provincial efforts to stimulate housing creation, you will see that they are trying to incent municipalities to approve more housing. In the latest federal budget, $4B of the $10B announced for housing is allocated to incenting municipalities to approve more housing. In fact, it is the municipalities that are most responsible for creating the untenable situation we are in. 

Sure, the municipalities can blame Provincial legislation, such as Ontario’s Planning Act, which encourages municipalities to engage local stakeholders, which usually means NIMBYs (not in my backyard). Sure, the Province of Ontario could modify the Planning Act by reducing the ability of local stakeholders to hold up projects for extended periods and sometimes unwarranted reasons.

In my opinion, however, the biggest issue is that municipally elected officials answer to their voters more than they do to the larger community. Everyone knows that at the municipal level, homeowners are more engaged in local politics than tenants and other marginalized groups. Who shows up at Public Hearings regarding new developments? Not the people who would most benefit from new housing creation. The people who show up at Public Meetings are predominantly those who feel they would be most negatively impacted personally. This is who our municipal politicians are answering to the most, in my opinion.

Why are we letting municipally elected officials and selfish stakeholders determine our housing future? Why can’t public servants decide on new housing, just like public servants administer so many other things in our lives such as public infrastructure, health care, education and justice? Imagine local councillors having jurisdiction in those areas!

I am encouraged that all levels of government finally acknowledge that the main problem is a lack of supply. I’m also pleased that Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau are leaning on municipalities. Trudeau stated on April 13, 2022, “We know that municipalities are an essential partner in solving the housing crisis.”

We are in need of drastic leadership that is prepared to make bold decisions that will truly change our housing future. Can we really expect our housing crisis to be solved by our municipal politicians?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. sylvie rueff
    Apr 17, 2022 @ 19:08:45

    An interesting take on an issue we experience here in Lawrence as well.

    Here we have a plethora of apartments built for students. They are cheaply built and finished, often with 4 bedrooms and baths around a small kitchen/dining/living room. Builders build them, keep them for 7 years and then trade them around among property companies. They are usually upgraded at those turnovers- minimally. These rent by the bedroom $450 per be and up. If there is 1/3 vacancy the property owners are still operating in the black. Meanwhile, there is practically nothing for young families and oldsters, and regular home prices have gone up more than 40% in the last two years.

    With so many students turning to online classes more and more apartments are standing empty while those working singles, families and oldsters have few if any options. And then there are the vagrant homeless, which average 250 in our little town.

    Yup, we need new ways of planning for communities that can serve the diverse needs and our evolving societal challenges.

    Good to see you are working on this.

    In the old days, I thought it took three years of work to move a revolutionary forward. One to introduce it, one to allow the audience to reshape their thinking and reorganize the definition of who they are to include it, and the third to make them think it was their idea all along.

    Best of luck!

    Your loving godmother

    Sent from my iPhone



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