ROSE CITY POLITICS – Windsor Tasked With 13,000 New Residential Units By 2031
Windsor has been tasked by Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario with building 13,000 new residential units in a decade. For the May 2023 issue of Biz X, members of the Rose City Politics panel opine on the task at hand and the target.
Though Windsor’s City Council has endorsed the provincial commitment to building 13,000 new homes in the city over the next 10 years, and followed through by supporting additional full-time employees in the planning department at budget time, skeptical voices point out that we’re unlikely to reach the target.
The province has made some significant adjustments to planning regulations over the past several months, including reducing parties with standing to appeal planning decisions and preventing municipalities from regulating residential infill, empowering property owners to convert single-family homes to multi-unit dwellings without approval.
Windsor currently produces about 500 residential building permits per year. Even if the city’s newly beefed-up planning department work tirelessly and produce the permits required to build 1,300 homes per year, builders have expressed concern that the capacity to construct this number of homes doesn’t exist here.
Provincial regulatory changes should be helpful overall, and the recent federal budget also offers housing supports in the form of funding for tax credits and housing initiatives. But, it is hard to see a sense of urgency from any level of government that matches the public mood or the need on this issue.
There’s a shortage of labour in the building trades across the province, and it’s again hard to see how Windsor will develop or attract the skilled workers needed to meet the provincial target. The city missed an opportunity to access cheap money in the era of low interest rates, which will constrain our ability to act in the future.
Simmering public frustration over housing costs is perhaps the most encouraging factor.
If electors continue to identify access to housing as a top priority, governments at all levels will have to make increasingly serious efforts to respond.
It is in the best interests of the public to demand more rather than accept the opening bid from government.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.
There are a million stories about housing in the unaffordable city. I am going to write about one of the places we are expected to build more — Sandwich South.
The Sandwich South lands were annexed from Tecumseh after amalgamation, in anticipation of city expansion.
Windsor Regional Hospital obtained the required zoning approval for the Sandwich South Secondary Plan (CityWindsor.ca/residents/planning/Plans-and-Community-Information/Documents/SSSP%20D_LandUse.pdf) which includes both that facility and extensive lands for housing, both low and medium density.
The secondary plan is dated 2012 and the zoning approval granted in 2018. We are told shovels will be in the ground in 2026.
Windsor has committed to building 13,000 units of new housing by 2031.
Many (including me) would prefer that housing be built through densification in the core.
But since the secondary plan is approved for Sandwich South, should we not be including this new housing in our aggressive approach to reach our goal?
But, we aren’t. Why?
I wish I knew. All I do know is that in the capital budget report for 2023 (CityWindsor.ca/cityhall/Budget/Documents/Budget-2023/Section%201%20-%20Capital%20Budget%20Report.pdf), the city administration has stated “. . . there remains a number of key projects which may not be funded satisfactorily within the next 10 years. Some examples of this include, but are not limited to: the development of the Sandwich South lands.” (My emphasis)
According to the City website, the Sandwich South Servicing Plan was to have been before Council in 2022.
Although there was a pandemic, it didn’t seem to slow down plans to construct the hospital in 2026, so it should not have slowed the approval and funding of the servicing plan.
Yet, here we are.
We have 13,000 homes to build in the next 10 years. Why are we leaving the Sandwich South component on the table?
Melinda Munro is a Windsor consultant who works with local governments and not for profits on strategy and service excellence through her company, Munro Strategic Perspective.
Premier Ford’s demand for 13,000 new residential units in a decade in Windsor is more aspirational than realistic.
In order to meet the target, Windsor would have to roughly double the existing 500 residential unit permits processed annually, and some local home builders are already saying it’s impossible.
Windsor is faced with significant barriers to achieve the target with ongoing and upcoming projects requiring significant labour and resources, including the NextStar Energy EV Battery Plant and associated new supply chain, the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Windsor-Essex Hospitals System, new multi-dwelling projects, supply chain issues affecting material availability and costs, a lack of available zoned and serviced lands, and a province-wide construction and trades labour shortage.
Municipalities that don’t achieve the new time limits for development approvals must refund development fees, something Windsor’s City Planner told the Windsor Star could affect the corporation’s ability to “have growth pay for growth”.
Complicating things, Windsor is already building at full steam having issued 590% more building permits in February than January.
Moreover, Statistics Canada says the Windsor area has tripled the value of building permits year-over-year, the second largest nationally by percentage point.
Windsor needs more housing with a record low rental vacancy rate of 1.8% as of October 2022, according to The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and an affordable housing waiting list of 6,500. But, when City of Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens agreed to head Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan Implementation Team to offer advice on housing initiatives, he accepted a hefty job on top of an already significant task.
Premier Ford is set on 1.5 million new homes to be built provincially over the next decade and passed three pieces of legislation to achieve it, with a new housing supply action plan expected to soon pass.
Especially concerning in a city which placed a hospital on a literal 60-acre bean field, the latest plan encourages Ontario’s 29 largest and fastest-growing municipalities to plan for 50 people and jobs per hectare on greenfield sites.
Windsor has a daunting task ahead with significant penalties and it will be interesting to see if we meet the target that’s been set as city council has officially endorsed it.
Jon Liedtke is a host on AM800 CKLW, Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and plays trumpet in a Windsor band, The Nefidovs.