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Barrie gets $25.6M boost from feds to fast-track housing

'We can't do it alone. We need to partner with communities right across the country,' says federal minister during stop in downtown Barrie
Federal Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser (left) chats with Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall during a funding announcement Thursday.

Barrie is getting $25.6 million in federal funding to not only fast-track more than 680 housing units during the next three years, but help spur construction of 4,100 homes in the next decade.

Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser, along with Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall, made the announcement this afternoon at the downtown bus terminal on Maple Avenue.

"It's no secret we are going through a housing crisis in Canada. We can help," Fraser said. "We can't do it alone. We need to partner with communities right across the country."

Nuttall said the new funding will help address local issues. 

"This isn't the end of the problem, it's the start of the solution," he said. 

The agreement between Barrie and Ottawa, in line with the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), will provide funding designed to eliminate barriers to building needed housing.

“By working with cities, mayors, Indigenous partners and all levels of government, we are helping to get more homes built for Canadians at prices they can afford,” Fraser said.

“We are dedicated to maximizing the impact of every dollar granted to ensure that Barrie residents have access to permanent, attainable, and affordable housing options that align with the pace of our city's rapid growth,” Nuttall said.

Barrie’s plan commits to nine local initiatives such as permitting four units as-of-right citywide, making city-owned land available for affordable housing, helping stalled developments that already have planning approvals get building permits by offering incentives, and expanding the city’s affordable housing community improvement plan to include forgivable loans for secondary suites.

Barrie already has a start on these programs.

Last month, for example, public meetings were held on rezonings to potentially turn city-owned land into hundreds of new residences. City council made three parcels of land surplus to its needs, to be rezoned for residential use and sold for the development of 1,375 new units.

The properties are 29 and 35 Sperling Dr., Barrie’s former police headquarters, 50 Worsley St., known as the H-Block, and 48 Dean Ave., right beside the Barrie Public Library’s Painswick branch.

At 48 Dean Ave., in Ward 9, there is already the library branch, surface parking and a landscaped area. The latter 1.66 acres, on this site’s eastern half, could be rezoned for a 10-storey building with 201 units and 257 parking spaces. 

The H-Block property is 1.58 acres in Ward 2, adjacent to Barrie Public Library’s downtown branch. The city’s concept would have two 33-storey towers, a three-storey podium, 628 units and 395 parking spaces.

The 29 and 35 Sperling Dr. property, Ward 3 land north of Highway 400 and east of St. Vincent Street, contains the former Barrie police headquarters and surface parking on 3.8 acres. The city’s development concept is for 11- and 12-storey buildings, with a total of 546 units and 473 parking spaces.

And in December, a public meeting was held on the city’s application to amend its own zoning bylaw to facilitate the permission for as many as four dwelling units on parcels of land zoned residential within Barrie.

Right now, Barrie’s zoning bylaw permits, as-of-right, building a maximum of three residential units on a property. As-of-right basically means a landowner is entitled to use or develop the property if the proposed use aligns with municipal zoning bylaws.

Launched in March 2023, HAF is a $4-billion program from the Canadian government that will run until 2026-27.

Ottawa says HAF is helping cut red tape and fast-track at least 100,000 permitted new homes during its first three years, which cities and regions estimate will lead to the creation of more than 750,000 permitted new homes for people in towns, cities, and Indigenous communities across Canada in the next decade.

HAF asks for innovative action plans from local governments and, once approved, provides upfront funding to ensure the timely building of new homes, as well as additional funds upon delivering results.

Local governments are encouraged to have approaches which could include accelerating project timelines, allowing increased housing density and encouraging affordable housing units.

Barrie is involved in other housing programs.

Bill 23, the province’s More Homes Built Faster Act of 2022, calls for 1.5 million new homes built in Ontario by 2031.

Barrie city council endorsed a pledge in early 2023 with a target of 23,000 new homes built here by 2031, in addition to what’s already planned. The pledge is a requirement of Bill 23, which instructed municipal governments to endorse their housing target pledges.