Guest column: Governments must work together to ensure housing is attainable

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By Drew Dilkens


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Ontario is in the midst of a housing crisis driven partly by high demand and low supply which is causing skyrocketing prices.

For decades, Windsor was largely immune to the dramatic housing trends of the GTA – bidding wars on every real estate transaction and too many people chasing too few properties. People in our province should have the choice to live close to their work and family, just like generations before them did.

But for too many, the housing crisis has already made this choice for them — pricing families out of many housing markets.

Recent research by economist Mike Moffatt of the University of Western Ontario points to several factors that have led to a mismatch between housing supply and demand in Ontario. He estimates across Ontario that 100,000 fewer homes are available than needed to match growing demand.


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This results in rising prices that further exacerbates the problem.

Over the past several years, additional impacts have put further pressure on the cost of housing. COVID-19 drove individuals and families to re-prioritize their housing requirements given the need to work from home. In addition, financial impacts of the pandemic meant that low-cost mortgages became the norm, allowing each of us to buy more, but also accumulate further debt.

Finally, anyone who has visited a hardware store recently knows the cost of building materials has also increased substantially. When all the inputs into housing construction goes up, so does the price.

In many ways, governments are now facing a perfect housing storm.


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Earlier this month, I participated in the Government of Ontario’s Housing Summit where the Premier, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, along with senior policy makers discussed the problem and potential solutions with mayors across Ontario.

We all agreed there is no single “silver bullet” to get this problem under control, but we all committed to doubling our efforts to find and implement short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

The city of Windsor is prepared to do all that is needed. We will look within and ask the tough questions of ourselves to see where we can do better to expedite approvals and make doing business with us easier, faster and friendlier.

We know we need new housing options and we know where the likeliest parcels for growth and infill are in our region.


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The city of Windsor could start work on planning and engineering work in advance of a developer knocking on our door. Similarly, the Essex Region Conservation Authority could begin their studies as well, so that we have “shovel ready” parcels of land available when new housing developments are proposed.

Today, we sit around and wait for a developer to submit a proposal before we lift our pencils and that can delay new construction by months, if not years. Acknowledging we are part of the problem is one thing; now is the time to do something about it.

But we are just one piece of the puzzle. I believe we need a unified intergovernmental approach to truly tackle this challenge.

We need pragmatic, thoughtful and practical policy solutions that recognize planning and development approvals across most of Canada haven’t materially evolved since the 1980s.


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Governments at all levels have layered on permitting and approvals processes that can delay projects by years and increase costs along the way.

As with previous national challenges, we can’t let our leaders point fingers at different levels of government as the ones who should step up and solve the housing crisis. We need urgent attention from the federal, provincial and all municipal governments to move forward together.

In response to the economic crisis of 2008-09, the federal government worked with provinces and municipalities to launch a multi-billion dollar job creation and infrastructure stimulus campaign.

As we have seen since March 2020 in responding to the ongoing public health crisis, governments can get a lot done – and quickly – when required.

The same kind of intergovernmental action plan is required to tackle this Canadian housing crisis.

Just over 10 years ago, governments working together also came forward to save the auto sector in Canada.

Working together again, I am certain we can ease the pressure on local families and ensure the dream of home ownership remains attainable and sustainable for the vast majority of Canadians.

Drew Dilkens is a major for the city of Windsor.


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