Low housing numbers could cost Burlington millions of dollars in grant money


Published December 28, 2023 at 3:46 pm

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This year has proven to be a slow time for Burlington when it comes to housing starts and it could come at a heavy financial price.

The latest Ontario government data shows that Burlington continues to have one of the lowest rates of housing starts in the province.

While Queen’s Park has set a housing goal of 29,000 homes to be built in Burlington by 2031 — a goal that the City of Burlington has committed to — data revealed by the Province shows that the current rate of home building is lagging.

To keep pace with the target, Burlington needed to start building 2,127 homes in 2023. As of Dec. 21, only 254 housing starts are listed which is just 12 per cent achieved of this year’s goal. By definition, a housing start indicates a home that has only just started to be built.

However, the starts don’t tell the entire story.

Up until the end of November 2023, there have been 639 housing completions in Burlington and 9,836 that are currently under construction. The data includes figures for all types of dwellings whether it be houses, condominiums or apartments.

Still, it’s the housing starts that Premier Doug Ford’s government is concerned with and Burlington’s poor performance on this front could cost the City important infrastructure funding.

As a result of not reaching its goal, Burlington could lose out on the Building Faster Fund which the Ontario government is using as an incentive for municipalities to encourage housing development.

Announced in August, the Building Faster Fund was set up with $400 million in funding for three years to municipalities that are on target to meet provincial housing goals by 2031. Municipalities that reach 80 per cent of their annual target each year will become eligible for funding. Municipalities that exceed their target will receive a bonus on top of their allocation. However, at 12 per cent, Burlington currently sits on the outside of the funding eligibility.

Burlington is not the only municipality that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Of the 50 municipalities in Ontario that are faced with housing goals, 33 have fallen into the category of failing to meet their 2023 housing targets by not achieving the 80 per cent success rate for starts.

Queen’s Park has not said if municipalities that fail to reach the targets will be totally cut off from the funding but it has some local officials worried.

“We don’t really know what this all means because so many (municipalities) are missing their targets,” said a person familiar with the process. “Technically, Burlington won’t be eligible for the funding based on the government’s criteria. But some of the money may be made available or the government could change its mind…they’ve been known to do that.”

Earlier this year Ford slammed Burlington for its slow progress on home building singling out the City for its low number of housing starts.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has defended the City pointing out that building permits are being issued and the number of projects in the pipeline exceeds the 29,000 commitment.

The mayor has said despite building approvals, developers are choosing not to build for several reasons including high interest rates, inflation, and not enough workers, among other reasons.

Meed Ward has consistently pointed out the City of Burlington is not in the business of building homes, rather it only can give approvals to developers.



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