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New Tecumseth won’t commit to Ontario housing target

October 5, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

After a request by the province to accelerate the housing supply in New Tecumseth by building 6,400 housing units by 2031, the Town’s council voted not to sign off on the pledge, citing infrastructure limits preventing it from supplying the needed drinking water supply capacity.

The pledge was discussed at New Tecumseth Council’s September 25 meeting.

In June 2023, the Minister of Municipal Affairs asked the Town to demonstrate its commitment to accelerating the housing supply by identifying a locally appropriate housing target and developing a Municipal Housing Pledge.

The Ministry followed up in August 2023 with a target of 6,400 housing units to be built by 2031.

That number of units is dependent on securing part of Collingwood’s water supply through the building of a pipeline. The Town does not currently meet the eligibility criteria to obtain funding through the Building Fast Fund to achieve this.

New Tecumseth Mayor Richard Norcross has been asked to commit or not commit to the housing pledge in writing by October 15, 2023.

It was recently announced the water facility expansion costs have more than doubled and is now estimated to cost around $270 million.

The province has offered ‘strong mayor’ powers under the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act to mayors who sign the pledge. This includes letting mayors determine the organizational structure of the municipality, veto some bylaws, prepare budgets, and exercise other employment powers over most departments or municipal divisions.

“As a municipality, we do not currently have the servicing capacity to responsibly commit to a housing pledge,” said Ward 6 councillor Nicole Cox. “This pledge does not address the housing affordability crisis and in contrast it commits our municipality to something we cannot deliver at this time and commits our residents to their continued and rising funding of growth.”

She stated that the ‘strong mayor’ powers “eliminate the public’s ability to participate and take active roles to shape their communities when it comes to growth,” adding, “We saw it first with the increased use of MZO’s in our municipality and now with the introduction of strong mayor powers they are allowing for minority rule and eliminating the voices of democratically chosen elected officials.”

Mayor Richard Norcross acknowledged there is a housing crisis, citing climbing mortgage rates and rental costs. However, he said the requested pledge is not feasible.

“When it comes to the housing pledge, this pledge is solely dependent on seeing the Collingwood pipeline and we have to secure it, which we can’t do,” Mayor Norcross said. “Without the significant, substantial investments from the provincial and federal governments, simply put, I don’t see how New Tecumseth can achieve this pledge. I do not support signing the pledge.”

With regards to the ‘strong mayor’ powers, Mayor Norcross said, “I strongly believe in a cohesive, unified, democratic council making the decisions for this Town. I believe in consensus building and team management.”

Even if council did sign the pledge, it was noted there would be no way to meet the target as the water plant expansion will not be completed until 2029 or 2029.

Council voted 6-4 to not sign the housing pledge.

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