Ontario big city mayors to discuss concerns over province’s new housing bill

Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) will meet on Friday as tensions rise between the mayor of the province’s largest city and Premier Doug Ford over the financial impacts of a new housing bill.

Mayor John Tory will be among a group of 29 mayors taking part in the virtual meeting at 9:30 a.m. The group also includes Brampton mayor Patrick Brown, and Mississauga’s Bonnie Crombie.

Items on the agenda include the province’s new housing legislation — Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act — and the concerns municipalities have about funding. The bill passed on Monday and aims to incentivize more rental and affordable builds by slashing and reducing certain fees.

It’s the next step in the province’s goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years, but some mayors have expressed concerns over how cities will make up the funding gap.

The group of mayors have already thanked the province for responding to some concerns with Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark writing to the OBCM, “it is critical that municipalities are able to fund and contract road, water, sewer, and other housing enabling infrastructure and services that our growing communities need.”

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has said the changes to the development charges will leave communities short $5 billion. The association says taxpayers will end up feeling the brunt through higher taxes and less services.

The province has vowed to make municipalities “whole,” if they can’t fund housing infrastructure and services due to the new provincial law.

“I find it staggering that the cities would actually want to charge on affordable and attainable homes,” Ford said this week. “It just doesn’t make sense whatsoever.”

Crombie says the new law will likely result in a five to 10 per cent property tax increase next year for the city of Mississauga, noting the city stands to lose $885 million over the next 10 years in development charges.

“The numbers are devastating, baffling, and deeply concerning,” she says. “Where is this money going?”

Clark wrote to the AMO to say the province was launching a third-party audit of municipal finances in “select” communities, focused on reserve funds and the fees housing developers pay.

The Ford government has not publicly outlined which cities would be subject to the audits but Clark wrote to Tory with the promise of keeping Toronto “whole.”

The mayors also plan to discuss how they can work with the province on housing matters.

The big city mayors represent municipalities that make up 70 per cent of the province’s population.

With files from the Canadian Press

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