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Windsor city council to discuss federal Housing Accelerator Fund again

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told reporters Friday that he doesn't feel that people who object to having four-plexes in their neighbourhoods should be labeled NIMBYs. (Dalson Chen/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told reporters Friday that he doesn't feel that people who object to having four-plexes in their neighbourhoods should be labeled NIMBYs. (Dalson Chen/CBC - image credit)

The matter of Windsor potentially accessing millions of dollars in federal funding for housing is returning to council on Monday — but Mayor Drew Dilkens still doesn't agree with the federal government's requirement that fourplexes be allowed everywhere in the city.

At a media briefing on Friday, Dilkens defended council's decision on Dec. 13 not to comply with the federal government's demand on fourplex development as a right — one of the conditions to access the Housing Accelerator Fund.

According to Dilkens, the city's housing plan that limits fourplexes to certain areas will meet or exceed HAF benchmarks, while still respecting homeowners.

"The city's plan is aggressive, thorough, and aimed at promoting densification throughout the city with a focus on key nodes along major thoroughfares and transit corridors where it makes sense for Windsor," Dilkins told reporters.

"Our plan not only meets HAF requirements but strongly exceeds them. It respects the homes of Windsor residents, the biggest investment most of us will ever make."

Windsor is eligible for around $40 million in base funding from the HAF, and up to $30 million more if it reaches certain housing targets, according to a news release issued by the city on Friday.

City's position shouldn't be dismissed as 'not-in-my-backyard' mentality, says mayor

Dilkens said he's aware of recent comments by federal housing minister Sean Fraser, who criticized "exclusionary zoning" by municipalities.

"If you want to tap into the fund, be more ambitious than your neighbours," Fraser said as a guest speaker at a luncheon in Toronto on Wednesday.

"There are cities who won't receive funding because they don't want to end exclusionary zoning in Canada. I know who some of them are and maybe they'll change their ways."

But Dilkens said he doesn't believe protecting the interests of Windsor homeowners and having concern about the character of neighbourhoods makes one a "NIMBY" — someone with a "not-in-my-backyard" mentality,.

According to Dilkens, the federal government's demand means fourplexes can be built "in Forest Glade, anywhere in Riverside, anywhere in East Riverside, anywhere in Walkerville, anywhere in Ford City and anywhere in South Windsor,"

"That's despite the repercussions this housing intensification could have on our infrastructure. We know there are risks to our sewers."

"What was being proposed and being asked for was just bring forward a zoning bylaw amendment that makes it happen. And anyone who says 'no' to that is somehow a NIMBY."

A map showing where the city will permit moderate and high density development under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund.
A map showing where the city will permit moderate and high density development under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund.

A map showing where the city will permit moderate and high density development under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund. (Dalson Chen/CBC)

Provincial rules currently permit three units as a right on properties across the city. Dilkens told reporters that the city has only received around 130 applications for triplexes over the past two years.

Asked why he was so concerned about fourplexes if triplexes hadn't led to a boom in construction, Dilkens replied, "the more density you add, the more economical it becomes for developers to start making money."

"I mean you say four-plexes. Why not five? Why not six?"

Council is committed to solving the housing crisis, regardless of the fourplex issue, the mayor insisted.

Higher-density development along transit routes

The city's HAF application includes a plan allowing fourplex development along major transit routes in most parts of downtown and many other areas of the city, according to a city news release.

It would allow multi-unit builds and several-story builds across almost 1,000 acres and nearly 50 kilometres of arterial roads with bus routes available.

Coun. Kieran McKenzie said population growth is changing the character of neighbourhoods and putting pressure on infrastructure, whether or not Windsor builds enough housing to accommodate everyone.
Coun. Kieran McKenzie said population growth is changing the character of neighbourhoods and putting pressure on infrastructure, whether or not Windsor builds enough housing to accommodate everyone.

Coun. Kieran McKenzie said population growth is changing the character of neighbourhoods and putting pressure on infrastructure, whether or not Windsor builds enough housing to accommodate everyone. (Dalson Chen/CBC)

The federal government is asking for a formal resolution from council out of Monday's meeting.

Public delegations will have the opportunity to speak at the meeting — which starts 10 a.m.

Ward 9 Coun. Keiran McKenzie said he believes the city needs to take the government's stance to heart.

"We're right in the middle of our budget process right now," he noted.

"We are all combing through those documents looking for every penny that we can find to be able to deliver services across the entire community."

HAF dollars for 2024 could drive the tax levy to zero, or help improve transit or services, McKenzie said.

"I'm very concerned that we're leaving something on the table with respect to the federal grant."

Speaking of the federal government's fourplex requirement, McKenzie said, "If that's the ticket to entry, then to me, the real question that we need to ask ourselves is, 'Do we or do we not want to leverage the funds that could be available?'"

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens displays a map showing where higher density housing would be permitted under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund.
Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens displays a map showing where higher density housing would be permitted under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens displays a map showing where higher density housing would be permitted under Windsor's application to the Housing Accelerator Fund. (Dalson Chen/CBC)