By Mike Anderson

The Town of Georgina will cash a large cheque from the province for making “substantial progress” towards its housing target in 2023.

The $1,522,520 cheque was presented to Mayor Margaret Quirk, council members and Town staff at the Civic Centre on April 4 by Perth-Wellington MPP Mathew Rae, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and York Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney.

The funding was provided through the province’s Building Faster Fund after the Town “broke ground” on 419 new housing units last year.

Still, this is 356 units shy of the 775 target originally mandated by the province.

The Building Faster Fund, announced in August 2023, is a three-year $1.2 billion program designed to reward municipalities that make significant progress towards their housing targets.

It includes $120 million for small, rural, and northern municipalities to help build housing-enabling infrastructure and prioritize projects that increase housing supply.

The funding was initially intended for municipalities that have reached at least 80 per cent of their provincially assigned housing target for the year.

But, it appears the province may be acknowledging that those targets are proving difficult to meet, as it included 10,000 new and upgraded long-term beds towards its housing target of 110,000 new homes in 2023.

In October 2023, the Town Council voted 5-2 to accept a provincial housing target of 6,200 new homes being built in Georgina over eight years.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) assigned the housing target, which will count towards the province’s goal of 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

However, a staff report at that time raised concerns that reaching that target would be difficult, as 775 new homes would have to be built annually to meet the 6,200 target.

According to the report, the highest number of building permits the Town issued for new home construction was 503 in 2021.

The report also pointed out a shortage of municipal (sewage and water) servicing allocations for new homes, which may delay construction.

While the Town has 4,693 units in its development pipeline, more than 1,200 units waiting for approvals do not have municipal servicing allocations.

Despite these challenges, the province is confident that smaller municipalities, like Georgina, can ramp up the construction of new homes.

“We are in a challenging environment with high interest rates, supply chain shortages and labour shortages,” Rae said

“But we continue to take action, cutting red tape, removing barriers for our municipal partners, and helping them streamline the process.”

Rae also pointed out that the province is making significant investments to improve housing infrastructure, citing the new $1 billion Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program, which supports core infrastructure projects like roads.

It is also quadrupling the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund to $825 million — helping municipalities repair, rehabilitate and expand critical drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

Mulroney agrees that the province must work with municipalities to increase the construction of new homes.

“It’s really important that the province works closely with municipal partners,” she said.

“However, governments don’t build homes. We have to clear obstacles to get people to build for Ontarians. Georgina has been doing a tremendous job, and we want to be supportive. That’s why we delivered today’s funding announcement.”

The Post asked the Town to explain how the $1.52 million will be used to increase housing starts. However, it appears that is yet to be determined.

“Council and Town staff will work together to determine the next steps on how to best maximize this funding to help increase the housing supply in Georgina,” the spokesperson said.

Mayor Quirk was nonetheless happy to receive the funds.

“As my Dad always said, you can only spend it once; we want to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck,” she said.

“We had a special meeting recently on homelessness and housing, and some housing ideas were proposed, so we might be able to use it for some of that. It might also be good for some in-ground infrastructure; at this point, we’re not sure.”

“We’re just grateful for the funds and look forward to working with the province as we move forward with building more homes.”