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'Unprecedented growth': Innisfil gets $2.5M for passing housing target

Town broke ground on 738 new units last year — far surpassing its 462-home goal

Promise kept.

The Ontario government has handed the Town of Innisfil a cheque for $2.52 million, through the Building Faster Fund, for exceeding its 2023 provincial housing target. Innisfil broke ground on 738 new units last year — far surpassing its 462-home goal.

“I want to congratulate Innisfil and all municipalities that have worked hard to get shovels in the ground faster,” said Matthew Rae, parliamentary assistant to the minister of municipal affairs and housing, during an announcement at Innisfil Town Hall Tuesday morning. “Our challenge to these municipalities now is to redouble their efforts to build more homes than ever before so we can improve affordability and keep the dream of homeownership alive. Our government will be there to support you every step of the way.”

Innisfil is one of 19 municipalities to exceed their targets, according to a tracker on the province’s website, joining communities such as Barrie, Belleville, Chatham-Kent, Kingston, Pickering, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto, Welland and Whitchurch-Stouffville in the Ontario government’s good books.

The goals were developed for 50 large or growing municipalities, as part of the province’s promise to build 1.5 million homes across Ontario by 2031. Innisfil signed its housing pledge, agreeing to construct 6,300 homes within eight years, in November.

Announced in August, the fund is a three-year, $1.2-billion program designed to encourage municipalities to address the province’s housing supply crisis. It rewards municipalities that make significant progress by providing funding for housing-enabling infrastructure. Money is provided to municipalities that have reached at least 80 per cent of their assigned target for the year, with increased funding for those that exceed their goal.

Rae was asked how the province determines each municipality’s specific funding allotment, and responded by saying that, because Innisfil went “above and beyond” its target, the town hit its maximum amount. He also declined to say how much money has been handed out to municipalities so far, since there are still a few more presentations to go.

“Next year, I’m sure Innisfil will work hard to meet … targets for 2024,” he said. “If they do so, it’ll be another allotment from that same fund.”

By comparison, Barrie got $6.3 million for breaking ground on 1,716 units last year, hitting 102 per cent of its target.

Mayor Lynn Dollin said the town has yet to decide exactly how the cash will be spent. But the fund comes with “very little strings attached,” so it could go toward an array of infrastructure projects needed to keep the wheels of development turning.

“Innisfil is a very desirable place for people to live and we are experiencing unprecedented growth as demonstrated by exceeding our housing target by 160 per cent,” she said. “It’s a great start, but we have to keep the momentum going. We don’t actually build homes; we create the environment that the permits are easy to get and (we) respond to the builders’ needs and wants. There could be other things like interest rates or labour shortages that can affect this. Our job is to have our house in order to provide services as efficiently and effectively as possible. We are also mindful that growth needs to be managed carefully, sustainably and in alignment with the town’s strategic plan and vision.”

Ontario reached 99 per cent of its provincewide target of 110,000 new homes last year, which includes housing starts, additional residential units, and new and upgraded long-term-care beds. It also broke ground on 18,992 rental starts in 2023, the highest number on record, Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin said.

“Innisfil is a remarkable fast-growing community with many unique attributes,” she said. “My wish list is the town’s wish list; what I’ve heard from both (Innisfil and Barrie) councils is they need the underground infrastructure to support housing. That’s been really loud and clear. You can’t flush a toilet at home if you don’t have water and sewer. The funding demonstrates our government’s commitment and dedication to improving affordability and providing Ontario residents with a homeownership opportunity.”

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Chris Simon

About the Author: Chris Simon

Chris Simon is an award-winning journalist who has written for publications throughout Simcoe County and York Region. He is the current Editor of BradfordToday and InnisfilToday and has about two decades of experience in the sector
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