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Ontario not budging on fourplexes despite federal funding on the line

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The Doug Ford government is not budging on its stance against introducing a fourplex housing policy, despite the fact it could cost the province new funding in the 2024 federal budget.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that $5 billion would be set aside for housing infrastructure. This funding would be divided between the provinces and territories, however, it is contingent on a list of action items meant to spur the building of housing—including a requirement that provinces adopt a policy allowing four units as-of-right.

Allowing fourplexes to be built as of right would involve amending official plans and zoning bylaws to allow the building of up to four residential units, up to four stories, on any parcel or land zoned as “residential.”

The requirement to allow fourplexes, in addition to other “missing middle” homes like duplexes, triplexes and townhouses, may prove problematic for Ontario, as Premier Doug Ford has been highly critical of allowing certain housing in residential neighbourhoods.

Speaking in Vaughan, Ont. on Wednesday, Ford said he doesn’t “believe in forcing municipalities.”

“I'm going to leave that up to each municipality to decide, because they know better than the province and the federal government,” he said.

“It's not up to the province to dictate, where every single building is going to be.”

The premier’s previous comments, which indicated neighbours would be “screaming” if a four-storey “tower” was built in their neighbourhood, was negatively received by the federal government.

Ford later clarified that he is comfortable with four units being built in an existing house, although his government isn’t ready to legislate it.

Last month, Housing Minister Sean Fraser openly mocked Ford by posting three photos of fourplexes built within neighbourhoods, saying the following images “may frighten some politicians.”

Ontario’s housing minister, who has been in public discussions with Fraser over the withholding of affordable housing funding, is also supporting the premier’s fourplex comments.

In a statement, his office said they are “open to collaboration” and are awaiting further details from the federal government.

Other requirements for the new Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund include a three-year freeze on increasing development charges, adopting changes to the National Building Code, requiring as-of-right construction for the government’s “Housing Design Catalogue” and implementing measures on Canada’s new Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights and Renters Bill of Rights.

Provinces have until Jan. 1 2025 to secure an agreement with the federal government. If an agreement cannot be made,that funding will be streamlined directly to municipalities.

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