Federal Housing Minister Maintains Course Despite Provincial Pushback

Sean Fraser Defends Housing Accelerator Fund as a Means to Tackle Canada's Housing Crisis

Amid rising tensions over jurisdictional boundaries, Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has reaffirmed his commitment to work directly with municipalities to tackle Canada’s housing crisis. Fraser, undeterred by provincial threats to obstruct his efforts, contends that the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund has made promising strides in expediting home construction, according to CBC News.

The Housing Accelerator Fund, designed to incentivize towns and cities to streamline housing development processes, has reportedly spurred early successes, encouraging municipalities to increase their homebuilding ambitions. Fraser’s firm stance comes on the heels of provincial leaders cautioning Ottawa to seek provincial input on housing plans or risk legislative action that could impede direct municipal funding agreements.

Despite the premiers’ united front, Fraser remains steadfast. “I have no appetite to slow down when it comes to building homes during a housing crisis,” Fraser asserted, defending the fund’s efficacy in fostering zoning reforms and bolstering housing construction goals.

Nova Scotia Prermier Tim Houston speaks to media during the closing news conference at the Council of the Federation Canadian premiers meeting in Winnipeg, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. Houston says health care is the main formal agenda item as he hosts Canada’s 13 premiers and territorial leaders at a meeting in Halifax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has projected a need for 3.5 million additional housing units by 2030, a target that necessitates a significant acceleration in housing starts, which tallied approximately 260,000 last year.

The federal minister’s defense of direct municipal engagement surfaces after the country’s premiers issued their warning, asserting that federal funds should first be channeled to provinces. This contention is exemplified by the $900 million transfer to Quebec, contrasting with other regions where cities must negotiate directly with Fraser.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith criticized the fund’s lack of fairness and equity, sentiments echoed by Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who lamented the duplicative processes resulting from inadequate collaboration. Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused the federal government of overstepping by distributing funds without provincial consultation.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says the federal government’s approach to housing lacks “fairness” and “equity.” (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Countering these critiques, Fraser welcomed provincial counterparts to contribute matching funding but emphasized his unwillingness to decelerate efforts, citing the urgent need for swift action.

CBC News reported Fraser’s recent agreements with cities like Calgary and Vaughan, which promise federal funding in return for zoning amendments to boost residential density. With 540 applications under review, Fraser anticipates Canadians will welcome the government’s proactive approach.

Addressing provincial concerns, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland suggested that provinces could do more to support municipal housing projects. Simultaneously, Public Services Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced federal plans to convert surplus land into over 2,800 new homes, with a portion designated as affordable housing.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and President of the Treasury Board Anita Anand look on as Public Services and Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, November 7, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

In defense of the government’s initiatives, Freeland pointed to the recent uptake of a new savings account program aimed at assisting Canadians with their first home purchase, a plan that mirrors the tax advantages of RRSPs and TFSAs.

As provinces call for coherence in federal housing strategies, Ottawa’s message remains clear: the construction of new homes is a pressing priority, and the federal government will continue to pursue direct measures to address the nation’s housing shortfall.