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Bradford could be on track for 6,500 new homes by 2031

‘I’m looking forward to still working with council and not having to worry about that strong mayor power,’ says mayor
Recently poured foundations and porches can be seen in front of partially constructed townhouses on Paisley Drive, with near finished units in the background along Mel Irving Drive in Bradford on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

After just announcing its new municipal housing pledge last week, Bradford is already gearing up for a new provincial target.

Premier Doug Ford announced targets for new homes for 21 municipalities, during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual general conference in London on Monday.

For Bradford, that means an increase from last week’s target of 3,440 new homes by 2031 to 6,500 new homes in the same time frame.

But Mayor James Leduc doesn't see that as a problem.

“Council just last week endorsed the 3,440 threshold and we’re fine," he said. "We understand that the government needs to meet the target of 150,000 housing starts a year and we’re going to do our share to see if we can help out in that area."

That would require the town to see about 813 new homes added each year between 2024 and 2031, compared to the 430 per year that would have been required under last week’s pledge.

To help reach that goal, Ford also announced Monday that the province’s new Building Fast Fund, which aims to distribute $1.2 billion over four years at $400 million per year spread across the municipalities who commit in writing to achieving the province’s assigned goals.

The province explained those municipalities will be evaluated based on the number of housing starts and additional residential units created per calendar year compared against their annual target.

According to the province’s funding model, assuming Bradford sees around 813 new housing starts per year, the town should be eligible for $1.72 million annually, or 0.43 per cent of the annual $400 million.

Again, the mayor didn’t expect hitting those targets would be an issue.

“Bradford was scheduled for growth anyways and if there’s an opportunity for us to get any kind of funding ... We’ll certainly take that funding and use that wisely towards our leisure services master plan, because we have to purchase 100 acres of greenspace and this gives us maybe another funding envelope to use for that,” Leduc said.

When it comes to how much of that funding might need to be set aside for other infrastructure like roads or sewers, the mayor said it was too early to tell.

“We’ll sit down and review the whole program and see how we can benefit from it,” he said.

In the report to council last week, town CAO Geoff McKnight noted that the town could lose about $3.9 million per year in anticipated revenue due to changes to development charges under Bill 23, meaning even if the town does receive $1.72 million from the province, it could still face a shortfall of $2.18 million per year.

“A grant program that rewards municipalities that achieve their housing targets is helpful but not a full answer for addressing funding gaps,” he said in an email.

McKnight explained he's waiting on more details from the province before he can comment further on the financial implications for the town.

Leduc also said it was too early to discuss the numbers, and both he and McKnight said council would have the chance to review the new targets in the near future, but an exact date has not yet been set.

In his report to council last week, McKnight said the development community would need to be “a full partner” in the effort to add 1.5 million homes to the province.

“Nothing within current legislation (including Bill 23), compels landowners to actually proceed with development of their land when approvals are in place,” he said in the report.

McKnight did not answer further questions about the province’s announcement on Monday that the new targets would be evaluated based on housing starts and additional residential units created, or how he expects that to impact the town.

While he cautioned that he hadn’t yet had time to go over all of the details, the mayor said he didn’t have any issue with using housing starts as a metric.

“I’m sure that we can work through it and ... we might as well be a part of that funding source,” he said.

Strong mayor powers

In order to help municipalities meet the province’s targets, Ford also announced on Monday that they would be given strong mayor powers if their head of council has committed to meeting these targets in writing by Oct. 15. Those municipalities would then receive the new powers by Oct. 31.

According to the province, strong mayor powers include:

  • Choosing to appoint the municipality’s chief administrative officer
  • Hiring certain municipal department heads, and establishing and re-organizing departments
  • Creating committees of council, assigning their functions and appointing the chairs and vice-chairs of committees of council
  • Proposing the municipal budget, which would be subject to council amendments and a separate head of council veto and council override process
  • Vetoing certain bylaws if the head of council is of the opinion that all or part of the bylaw could potentially interfere with a provincial priority
  • Bringing forward matters for council consideration if the head of council is of the opinion that considering the matter could potentially advance a provincial priority

While Leduc called the news a “great announcement,” he added that council has already mostly endorsed the growth plan.

“We don’t need the strong mayor powers. I think we’re a good council and we’ll get that done together collectively,” he said.

When asked if he thought there might be other issues which would merit the use of those powers, the mayor said he didn’t see it being an issue.

“I think we’re a pretty cohesive unit. When it comes to council, we discuss, we have differences of opinions, but in the end, we always make the decision that is best for our community, so I’m looking forward to still working with council and not having to worry about that strong mayor power,” he said.

— With files from The Trillium

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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