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Barrie city councillors spearhead efforts to utilize vacant land for housing


Barrie city councillors are working to address the pressing issue of vacant land with what Mayor Alex Nuttall has called desperately needed housing.

The federal and provincial governments have allocated over $30 million to Barrie to tackle the housing crisis, bipartisanship the mayor considers crucial.

In March, the federal government announced it would be providing $25,684,990 over a three-year period. The following day the province came forward with a pledge of  $6,344,201. 

"When you think about the inputs into the housing crises, you have had a lot of immigration happening and not enough houses being built in order to keep up with that. It's going to take everyone working together to get it done," Nuttall said to CTV News in April. 

However, bad blood is brewing between those two levels of government.

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced his government would withhold over $350 million in affordable housing funding from Ontario, saying the province failed to meet affordable housing targets, something the opposition, the New Democratic Party (NDP), pounced on Monday at Queens Park.

"Last week, I met with housing advocates in Peterborough and Barrie, and I heard how this government's refusal to spend federal housing money on housing is putting so many projects at risk," NDP Leader Marit Stiles said in Question Period on Monday. 

The federal government has decided to provide funding directly to municipalities. 

Ottawa said it would effectively bypass the province and give the funding directly to local municipalities - the same entities Ontario would have given the money to anyway, according to the provincial housing minister.

"The big bad federal minister of housing is going to punish Ontario, you know how, by distributing the money the same way we have done it for the last 35 years," said Ontario Housing Minister Paul Calandra.

The political fireworks come as Barrie staff revise their timeline to implement an updated affordable housing strategy.

The City previously received over $6.4 million of the federal government's three-year million investment, committing to having 6,825 housing starts by March 31, 2027. The rest of the funding is contingent on meeting certain metrics outlined in plans formed before that funding was promised.

The funding from other levels of government was provided after the City updated its initiatives in policies including the affordable housing strategy, the housing accelerator fund actino plan and its municipal pledge. Staff will work on aligning these policies to better match the commitments and requirements from the other levels of government. 

An updated Community Improvement Plan, which would give council certain tools to provide incentives to spur development, will now be brought to council by the end of September. Top Stories

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