Last night at GC, Council discussed the Housing target the Province has set for Aurora and our pledge to meet that target and commit to building 8000 units to 2031… As I said at the table, the report put forward by Director, Marco Ramunno and his staff was extraordinary. It was clear, concise and provided the information Council needed to decide how best to implement a workable housing strategy that fits within our community’s vision. To be clear, the purpose of Councils discussion last night was to review the staff report and consider the best options to move forward towards our housing target and get shovels in the ground to build much needed housing for our community; it wasn’t to debate or vote on the inclusion of Strong Mayor powers in the relative legislation. That decision has already been made by the Province and is beyond the scope of power or authority of our municipal council.
We are in the midst of a housing crisis, decades in the making. I know we live in the era of soundbites and clickbait, but the simple truth of it is there are no easy, or quick fixes to address it. It did not happen overnight and it certainly won’t be solved overnight. It will take all levels of government to put politics aside and work together to ensure that our residents – current and future – have a place to call home.
Recognizing that municipalities play a vital role in moving new housing forward, the province has asked us all to do our part to make housing a priority. They tasked 50 municipalities within the GTHA to identify a target – a number of housing units that we as a community pledge to develop to meet urgent housing needs. Additionally, they’ve introduced the Building Faster Fund, a new funding opportunity for municipalities .
At the June meeting of Council, members voted unanimously to direct our staff to work on our number, Aurora’s housing pledge for our community. If you read the comprehensive staff report on the agenda put forward by Mr. Ramunno, staff have identified our number as 8000 units. According to staff’s estimate, Aurora can accommodate 8000 new places for current and future residents to call home; while at the same time meeting the terms of our Official Plan.
And the Province clearly agrees with our staff’s number as the Province has also set Aurora’s target housing number as 8000 units.
So what does this pledge to build 8000 housing units mean? it’s important to understand that this number pertains to permits issued. This means we need to consider all approved applications, those at the OLT under review as well as applications under review by staff that will be in front of Council soon – from pipeline to permit. It means shovels in the ground for those applications already approved. For instance, an application like Highland Gate, approved in 2016, can still contribute to the total 8000 with 144 units because it has phases awaiting permits, and it’s the permits issued that matter for our housing target. Currently, we have 7519 units in the pipeline (attachment below), or nearly 94% of our target, and given that fact, staff are confident that we can readily meet our housing target (pledge).
And we can meet our target without excessive development of our Town or development that is beyond what we’ve envisioned in our Official Plan.
The newly announced provincial Building Faster Fund is also linked to meeting our target. For the Town of Aurora this means that we are eligible to receive over 2 million dollars each year for 3 years if we meet our yearly target.
Residents and business owners expect us as elected representatives to use whatever tools are available to us to find solutions to the housing crisis that work for our community
And that is what we have done with our updated official plan and the housing target identified by our Town staff.
However, our challenge will be similar to that facing communities across this province – to go from approval to shovels in the ground. And that is why we are taking action, implementing forward thinking housing focused policy initiatives specifically targeted to incentivize housing development. Initiatives such as our affordable housing action plan, eliminating minimum parking requirements in the MTSA and we will be looking at the end of the month at as of right pre zoning on main corridors to help get shovels in the ground, but continue to adhere to the principles of our OP
Aurora is in a strong position. We have worked to update our Official Plan, a development plan that works for our community; set a housing target that is achievable and in alignment with Provincial targets and have, through our housing pledge, gained access to potentially $2 million dollars of provincial funding a year for 3 years.
At the end of the day that is what it’s all about, Doing our best for our residents and business owners. It’s about leveraging the tools made available to us to build our community in a positive way – with a diverse housing stock, a strong revitalized downtown, and a growing economy; one that will allow all our residents young and older to continue to enjoy our great community, Our Town, Aurora, for generations to come.
The recommendation to support the Municipal Housing Pledge for the Town of Aurora passed on a vote of 6-1 (councillor Gallo opposed); this vote however will need to be ratified at Council at the end of the month….