Queen’s Park, Clarington at odds over housing bonuses


Published May 22, 2024 at 4:39 pm

51 and 55 Clarington Boulevard, an active above-ground construction site.
The construction site at 51 and 55 Clarington Boulevard

The Mayor of Clarington is calling on the provincial government to show him the money and be fair in handing out financial bonuses for meeting housing targets after being denied $4 million because of a discrepancy with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation over what constitutes a housing ‘start.’

The municipality achieved 955 new housing unit starts in 2023, exceeding the target of 953 set by the Province and making Clarington eligible for about $4 million from the Provincial Building Faster Fund. However, the Doug Ford government said not so fast, claiming only 506 unit starts were achieved – just 53 per cent of the target—making it ineligible for funding.

Adrian Foster is crying foul, and he believes he has a case.

“Clarington is confident that we have exceeded our housing targets for 2023, as per the Housing Pledge that I signed,” Foster said. “Our 955 units not only had building permits issued, they also had inspections completed in 2023. I am calling on the Province to be fair to the taxpayers of Clarington; to review their methods and re-evaluate our numbers.”

Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster

The Building Faster Fund is a $1.2 billion program that provides funding to municipalities that meet or exceed their annual housing targets. The Province uses Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CHMC) data to determine whether municipalities have met their targets, which Foster said is not comprehensive.

At issue is two multi-story buildings in Bowmanville at 51 and 55 Clarington Boulevard, totalling 440 units, which were started and inspected by Clarington’s Chief Building Official in 2023, but not counted in the numbers. Despite meeting with CMHC staff and engaging the Province to re-evaluate, Clarington has been advised it will not receive funding.

Pickering was the only Durham municipality to qualify for a housing start bonus from the provincial government last year (and one of just a handful in Ontario) and is well on its way to another oversized novelty cheque this year, according to a government tracker that uses CMHC data.

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.

Clarington is nearly on pace to meets its target this year, with 344 units already built – 31.8 per cent of its 2024 target – but had the poorest performance of all Durham communities last year because of the discrepancy between the CMHC and the municipality on the definition of a housing ‘start.’

Ontario Housing Minister Paul Calandra

In a letter from Housing Minister Paul Calandra to Foster dated March 27, Calandra said the CMHC data is used because the Province needs “consistent, validated and regularly published” figures and has no intention of changing, though he did agree to “develop a coordinated process” to discuss the discrepancy with the CMHC.

“A permit,” Calandra added, “is not a shovel in the ground or a home to live in.”

The response was far from satisfactory for Foster, who wants the government to take another look at the numbers.

“Clarington is committed to enabling responsible growth. We met our targets, and our community was counting on these funds to allocate to the development of parkland, which has also been reduced by the Province under Bill 23,” said Foster. “The denial of funding for a fast-growing municipality like Clarington results in shifting the cost of growth from the developers to the existing taxpayers.”

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 the Building Faster Fund as incentive to get there.

Clarington’s target was 13,000 homes, as was Pickering. Whitby was assigned 18,000 homes and Ajax 17,000. 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.

51 and 55 Clarington Boulevard, an active above-ground construction site.

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