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Record housing construction not enough for London to qualify for infrastructure funds to maintain momentum



When it comes to counting newly built homes— timing is everything.

Issuing residential building permits at a record pace hasn’t been enough for London to qualify for a provincial program rewarding other cities that accelerated new home construction.

“Last year we did more permissions than we’ve ever done— over 5,300,” Mayor Josh Morgan told CTV News. “[However], we did not qualify for the Building Faster Fund (BFF). What is true is that we have a tremendous and unprecedented level of development activity happening in the city right now.”

The fund awards additional funding for housing-related infrastructure as an incentive for municipalities to meet their provincial housing target.

Morgan said the province calculated 2023 housing construction based on a single point in time— which failed to acknowledge the two-year (or longer) construction timeline for high rise residential buildings.

There are more than 20 construction cranes in the sky over London as the city intensifies, according to The London Plan’s philosophy of ‘building up, not out.’

In addition, new data from city hall’s building department reveals that in January and February of this year, permits for mid-density and high-density housing soared more than 1,500 per cent compared to the same period last year.

There are currently about 7,100 high-density units under construction.

The mayor suggests not qualifying for the provincial BFF infrastructure funding jeopardizes London’s momentum, “What we will need from the province is support to create the housing enabling infrastructure that is required to create the next 7,100 units.”

In 2021, a proposal to build a 24-storey residential high rise near Fanshawe College was derailed, in part because the area lacks sufficient sewage capacity.

“That area is a great example of the type of infrastructure that we could invest in. [It] would open up [the area] to upwards of 10,000 new units,” Morgan said.

Ontario’s Associate Housing Minister and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack said London hasn’t missed out.

“The Ontario Building Faster Fund is a three-year fund, and if you don’t qualify this year, you’ve always got next year or the following year,” Flack explained.

He added that London and other municipalities that missed their targets will soon be able to apply for a share of the infrastructure funding.

“If you don’t qualify for a BFF cheque this year, you can apply to get infrastructure funding,” Flack added. “I’ve talked to Mayor Morgan [and] I know he’s going to do that.”

Morgan said it’s a priority, “It’s my strong intention to have our staff ready to be first in line to access that funding because we desperately need it.”

The province has set a goal of 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

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