Housing target bonuses easy money for Pickering; less so for rest of Durham Region


Published May 8, 2024 at 11:45 am

Doug Ford Pickering housing cheque
Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Premier Doug Ford and Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe on hand in March for a cheque presentation after Pickering surpassed its 2023 assigned housing targets

The only Durham municipality to qualify for a housing start bonus from the provincial government last year is well on its way to another oversized novelty cheque, according to a government tracker that uses housing data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Pickering smashed it own housing target by an extra 58 per cent in 2023, with a record-breaking year for housing starts (1,502 new units) earning the city a $5.2 million bonus.

This year, just a third of the way into the year, the city has already built nearly 600 units, which is more than halfway towards their 2024 goal of 1,083.

Clarington is nearly on pace to meets its target as well, with 344 units already built – 31.8 per cent of its 2024 target.

Clarington had the poorest performances of all Durham communities last year, achieving just over half of its provincially imposed housing targets. Mayor Adrian Foster cried foul over the criteria, however, saying the municipality did meet its targets but lost out on a $4 million bonus because of a discrepancy between the CMHC and the municipality on the definition of a housing ‘start.’

Ajax is not far off its goal for the year, with 377 units created so far – 26.6 per cent of its assigned target.

Last year Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa all achieved between 60 and 67 per cent of their housing goals, far from the 80 per cent required to qualify for financial bonuses. This year Oshawa (82 starts) and Whitby (96 starts) have barely made a dent into their targets.

Oshawa Councillor Derek Giberson called the whole process a “political PR exercise.”

The Ontario government has set a goal of building at least 1.5 million homes by 2031 and has assigned the province’s 50 largest municipalities with housing targets to help meet this goal and a $1.2 billion Building Faster Fund as incentive to get there.

Oshawa’s target was 23,000 homes, an ambitious goal considering the city has never come close to building houses at that rate, despite smashing building permit records last year by $300 million.

Whitby was assigned 18,000 homes; Ajax 17,000 and Pickering and Clarington 13,000 units each.

Across the province 109,011 new homes (including long-term care beds) were created in 2023 – 99 per cent of the target. A dozen cities hit 80 per cent of their targets to qualify for a bonus, with just four municipalities (including Pickering) surpassing their assigned goals.

Pickering issued 1,933 building permits last year, with an estimated construction value of $853M and received 1,972 new development applications, valued at $1.26 billion. The numbers represent the most development applications received and building permits issued in a single calendar year for Pickering.

“We are steadfast in our commitment to creating a sustainable, interconnected, and flourishing community that offers a diverse array of housing choices for all residents,” said Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe, who thanked Ford for the funds and staff for their work in planning and development.

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