Making Room for the Middle, Mississauga’s Bold Housing Strategy: Mayor Crombie Address

The following speech was delivered by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie during the Region of Peel’s Housing and Homelessness Summit which took place on April, 4th, 2017:

“Good morning, everyone; on behalf of the City of Mississauga, our team of professional staff and Members of Council, I welcome the opportunity to be part of today’s Peel Housing and Homelessness Summit. Let me single our Councillor Karen Ras and Ron Starr who are with us today.

“I also welcome the opportunity to discuss specifically what the City of Mississauga is doing to ensure people, who choose to live, work in and enjoy Canada’s sixth largest city, are able to do so.

“It is only fitting that this Summit is taking place now. Council is moving forward with a made in Mississauga plan that provides bold, innovative and practical strategies to give people more options for affordable, stable and safe housing here in Mississauga.

“Our strategy is called: Making Room for the Middle: A Housing Strategy for Mississauga.

“This strategy aims to foster a supportive development environment for private and non-profit housing builders to provide a range of housing that is affordable for all – with a focus on middle-income households earning between $55,000 and $100,000.

“The draft strategy proposes a target of 35% of all new development to be affordable.

“Why are we doing this now? Housing affects all residents and Council wanted to identify actions the City may take to help ensure housing remains affordable.

“In Mississauga, the supply of housing that is affordable to a variety of household incomes is decreasing. In particular, the range of housing available to middle-income earners is dwindling, such that a large part of the population and workforce is being priced out of Mississauga.

“Many middle-income households in Mississauga are struggling to enter the housing and rental market due to rising prices. 1 in 3 households are spending more than 30 per cent of their gross household income on housing, which is considered unaffordable.

“At this income level, those that rent may have difficulty finding units that suit their needs.

“With the vacancy rate at half of what it should be, prospective renters are finding it increasingly difficult.

“Prospective homeowners can afford to pay from $270,000 to $400,000 but in Mississauga, this can only buy a condominium apartment or very limited selection of townhouses.

“Unlike low and high income households, middle income households do not qualify for financial assistance from public programs, nor can they qualify for large mortgages.

“The City does not build housing, so the primary aim of the strategy is to help private and non-profit builders to deliver more housing that is the right size and type to suit the needs of all middle-income households

“While housing has traditionally been the responsibility of the Region, and the provincial and federal governments, Council and staff are tackling the housing issue head-on.

And I want to single out Mississauga’s own Ed Sajecki, Commissioner of Planning and Building, Andrew Whittemore, Director of Policy Planning Division, and all our or staff who continue to lead on this important file.

“Put simply, we are ready to do our part. Mississauga does have a role to play to address affordable housing needs. We can bring about change through three key ways:

  • First, establishing supportive planning policy and regulations which encourage a range of housing types and sizes
  • Second, adopting by-laws that regulate and control demolition of affordable buildings
  • Third, appealing to other levels of government for changes to policies, programs and for financial support needed to improve the local situation in Mississauga

“All options are on the table to ensure people who want to live, and build a better life for their families in Mississauga, are able to do so.

“The draft strategy is the outcome of a significant amount of research and work with industry and our federal, provincial and regional government partners to identify actions and potential solutions that will effect sustainable change.

“What we have before us is a call to action. The draft strategy includes 4 goals and 40 action items. Our goals are straight forward:

  • Remove Barriers
  • Close the Missing Middle Gap
  • Champion Systems Reform
  • Be Accountable

“These goals and actions were crafted with the assistance of the City’s Housing Affordability Advisory Panel – a group of industry experts from all levels of government and the private and non-profit sectors.

“When it comes to being part of the solution to increase housing affordability and ensure no one is pushed out of our community, I am proud to say that everyone has been part of the solution.

“I want to also take the opportunity to thank Region staff for being an important partner and working closely with City staff and the Advisory Panel in the development of the draft strategy.

“This Strategy is part of our bigger and ongoing efforts to build a complete city: a place where people can raise a family; earn an education; find a well-paying job; start a business; access a vast public-transit network; and enjoy an unrivalled quality of life; right here in Mississauga.

“Several of the recommendations emphasize the importance of making full use of the tools the City has at its disposal. These include:

  • Establishing a Property Tax Deferral Programin partnerships with the Region for the production of new housing affordable to the middle income households
  • Exploring with the Region of Peel the implementation of a Regional tax levy to support middle income households
  • Implementing a “housing first” policyfor surplus City lands
  • Reviewing and simplifying processes and regulationsfor legal second units
  • Building an affordable housing reserve fundusing Section 37 and other municipal revenues to finance affordable housing and purpose-built rental housing incentives

“The Strategy also calls on the provincial government to expand municipal revenue tools.

“We have repeatedly said municipalities and the Province need to have an honest debate about how to fund urgent city-building priorities with revenue tools that ensure permanent, dedicated and long-term funding. Setting aside 1 per cent of the HST or the income tax for cities is worth considering.

“A Housing Forum to consult with the public and stakeholders on the draft strategy is planned for early spring 2017.

“The draft strategy establishes a planning framework to make it easier for the development industry to provide housing in the local community and proposes establishing interim city-wide housing targets of 35 per cent

“The draft strategy proposes actions to remove regulatory barriers at the City level. For example: parking standards and development fees.

“We are also working to be more accountable with the monitoring, collection and analysis of data about local housing conditions.

“But most importantly, the strategy calls for systems reform at the senior levels of government, for without such intervention, the City efforts alone will not have profound impact.

“City of Mississauga Council has already endorsed in-principle actions, including: rental housing protection; demolition control and a Housing First Policy for surplus lands.

“City staff will present the final housing strategy for approval following the Housing Forum, later in 2017.

“In closing, I wish to reiterate that we cannot do it alone.  I am so encouraged to see everyone here working toward a same goal. We need the collective will and commitment of all levels of government to provide the financial and regulatory support required to increase and protect the supply of housing that’s affordable for all.

“People cannot pursue the opportunities that each new day brings here in Mississauga, if they do not have a safe place to lay their heads at night. Complete cities move, service and house people.

“This Strategy puts Mississauga on the path to getting housing affordability right.

“Thank you again for inviting me to be with you and I look forward to the ideas and results that emerge from today’s Summit!”

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