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Cities call for infrastructure funding to build homes, fiscal update sparks dismay



The recent fiscal update from the federal government has left many, including municipal leaders, disheartened by the absence of substantial measures to address the housing crisis. The disappointment stems from the government's failure to introduce a new infrastructure funding model, a promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the fall.


The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) reveals that its commissioned research indicates a staggering $600 billion in infrastructure funding is required to facilitate the construction of 5.8 million homes by 2030, a target set by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. to restore affordability. Despite these pressing needs, the fiscal update did not outline a comprehensive funding framework, prompting the FCM to urge federal, provincial, and municipal leaders to convene and discuss a strategy that considers economic and population growth.


Municipalities assert that increased funding is essential for building critical infrastructure, from roads to public transport and drinking water systems, to support the construction of much-needed homes. However, Halifax Mayor and Big City Mayors' Caucus Chair Mike Savage acknowledge the fiscal constraints faced by federal and provincial governments, emphasizing the urgency for action given municipalities' heightened financial pressures.


Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland's fiscal update acknowledged the strain of high inflation and interest rates on federal finances, leading to limited new housing policies. While the Liberal government has worked collaboratively with municipalities in the past, including the launch of a $4-billion housing accelerator fund program, the recent update did not address the need for a new infrastructure funding model.


Savage appreciates the government's efforts but insists that more support is necessary to achieve Canada's housing ambitions. The fiscal update did include some housing policies, such as $15 billion in low-cost loans for rental developers and $1 billion for affordable housing. However, critics argue that these measures fall short of addressing the magnitude of the housing crisis.


Mike Moffatt from the Smart Prosperity Institute acknowledges the steps taken but deems the overall document as underwhelming in the face of a housing crisis. With rents soaring and affordability slipping away, the limited scale of policies has left housing experts and advocates concerned.


Trudeau's commitment to addressing housing challenges made during the Liberal caucus retreat in September raised expectations. However, the fiscal update has not met those expectations, leading to calls for more aggressive action to solve the housing crisis. Housing advocates propose alternative measures, such as providing tax incentives to developers and attaching more conditions to funds allocated through the housing accelerator program.


As discontent grows among municipalities and housing advocates, the federal government faces increasing pressure to implement comprehensive and effective strategies to tackle Canada's housing crisis. The need for collaboration between all levels of government remains crucial to finding sustainable solutions that address the diverse challenges presented by the housing situation.

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