City Zoning Changes Required to Unlock Millions in Federal Housing Funding

Released: November 2, 2023 at 1:21 p.m.

Mayor Scott Gillingham will lead discussions at City Hall around zoning changes required to qualify for significant federal funding aimed at tackling Winnipeg housing needs.

In July 2023, City Council approved Winnipeg's $192 million application to the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF). The application outlined a set of strategies to modernize zoning rules, increase density near major transit and transportation routes, and incentivize the construction of more housing, with a focus on affordable housing and projects to help the homeless.

The HAF is a competitive fund on a national level. To qualify for funding, the federal government is now imposing additional requirements for various cities to eliminate exclusionary zoning practices. For Winnipeg, the requirements are:

  1. Legalizing four units as-of-right city-wide;
  2. Legalizing up to four storeys as-of-right within 800 metres of frequent transit corridors;
  3. Ensuring that new mid-rise housing zoning reforms targeted for mall sites and commercial corridors - as proposed in City Council’s Strategic Priorities Action Plan – allow for as-of-right development to facilitate quick approvals and construction of new rental housing.

Gillingham had already committed to deliver aggressive mid-rise apartment zoning changes similar to the third requirement in his 2022 election platform.

"Unlocking federal funding through the Housing Accelerator Fund is key to addressing the homelessness crisis in our city and adding more housing that’s affordable for families and young people," said Gillingham. "We have laid out a bold plan that would create more than 15,000 new homes in Winnipeg over the next 10 years, but we need the funds to bring it to life."

Gillingham will bring a motion to the next Executive Policy Committee meeting to advance these changes forward to a full Council debate.

Several Canadian cities have recently made similar changes in response to new federal requirements for the Housing Accelerator Fund, including: Kelowna, Calgary, London, Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Mississauga, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Moncton, and Halifax. Edmonton adopted a new zoning bylaw last week that allows up to eight units per lot, and Toronto adopted a four-unit per lot rule in May. Also, the British Columbia government just announced legislation that will impose 4-6 unit per lot requirements on all of its municipalities, depending on lot sizes and proximity to regular transit service.

“Housing is changing across the country and I think it’s important for Council and the public to have the conversation about how Winnipeg can remain a strong candidate for federal funding, private investment, and immigration,” said Gillingham.

A copy of the letter from the federal government is attached.

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