October 18, 2023

London politicians offer support for local NDP MPP’s housing private member’s bill

An MPP from London, Ont., is calling for the province to set up a new public agency in response to the ongoing housing crisis, as well as the construction of affordable homes at cost on public land.

London NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan wrote a letter to city council earlier this month detailing new housing legislation that would see the provincial government build 250,000 affordable homes over 10 years.

If enacted by the PC government, the motion would establish a new public agency, Homes Ontario, to finance the construction and oversee the building of the new affordable and non-market rental homes at cost on government-owned land, which would subsequently reduce the cost for owners.

Additionally, Kernaghan wrote in the letter that the homes would also be operated and/or constructed by public, non-profit or co-op housing providers.

“It’s been a historic responsibility for the province to build and provide housing,” Kernaghan said.

The London North Centre MPP noted in his letter the Wartime Housing Limited, a Crown corporation that built and managed thousands of housing units for veterans following the Second World War.

“Canada built 1.5 million of these ‘Homes for Heroes’ between 1943 and 1960 on government land for moderate income households. This is equivalent to 6 million homes today,” Kernaghan said.

“Between 1973 and 1994, Canada built or acquired around 16,000 non-profit or co-operative homes every year,” he continued. “Since the 1990s though, federal and provincial governments’ housing policies moved away from this, and toward relying on the for-profit private market to deliver the new housing that people need.”

Speaking with Global News on Wednesday, Kernaghan said the legislative assembly of Ontario will be debating the proposed motion later this month.

“We would build about 25,000 homes a year, for a total of 250,000 homes,” he said, adding that jobs would also be created if the motion were enacted.

“We see right now that a lot of home builders are really upset about the high interest rates (and) material cost. We’re not seeing a lot of housing starts as a result,” Kernaghan continued. “This public agency would ensure that there are those housing starts, create good jobs and further produce these affordable homes to families.

“This is absolutely the answer that is one piece of the puzzle to address the housing crisis that we’re in…. I am proposing that the provincial government needs to get back in the business of building housing.”

The proposal comes as the province continues with its plans to build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years through the More Homes Built Faster Act.

Despite that, Kernaghan stressed that the private sector isn’t building the housing that’s currently needed, who called for support from the city.

The call resulted in a lengthy debate between councillors during the strategic priorities and policy committee (SPPC) meeting on Tuesday, leaving some members divided on whether or not to support the proposed legislation.

Ward 3 Coun. Peter Cuddy initially sought to have the MPP’s letter be received and for no further action to be taken, as some politicians said they wouldn’t be supporting the “bureaucracy” as a result of a new housing agency

The motion sparked some opposition from other committee members, including Ward 6 Coun. Sam Trosow.

“I’m having a very difficult time understanding what the downside is of endorsing this,” he said. “We need to be doing this. We need effective government action.”

In a number of amendments, Trosow pressed other committee members to support the proposed legislation, including the creation of the Homes Ontario agency, also asking that the MPP’s letter be sent to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) for additional consideration.

Mayor Josh Morgan added that he has “absolutely no issue in supporting our local MPP.”

“I actually think what he’s outlined here is pretty easy to get behind,” he said. “It’s up to the government whether or not they want to create a whole new agency, but the idea that you want to build a quarter-of-a-million affordable homes that they want to take the lead and ideally finance it, and then actually want to get back into the co-op business…. This is the kind of thing that I personally want the government to be considering.”

However, some councillors remained opposed to amendments calling for the creation of Homes Ontario.

“I trust the provincial government will do what they need to do,” Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson said. “I appreciate knowing what’s going forward, but I don’t feel that there’s any need for us to do anything further than just receive it and see what happens.

“I will not support this amendment,” she continued. “All parties have prioritized housing. I trust the government will engage if they think it is worthwhile.”

The motion for the city to support the proposed legislation and that it be referred to AMO passed with a vote of 7-6.

“I was really thrilled and honored to have the city’s support,” Kernaghan told Global News. “London is home to some brilliant [and] innovative approaches to housing and I’m really glad to add this to them.”

The proposed legislation will be debated in Queens Park on Oct. 24.