For an affordable and sustainable Winnipeg that grows up, not out
PRESS RELEASE: YIMBY Winnipeg commends EPC’s first steps to ending Exclusionary Zoning
November 15, 2023
YIMBY Winnipeg commends the Executive Policy Committee of Winnipeg City Council for passing Mayor Gillingham’s motion to make bold and progressive additions to Winnipeg’s Housing Accelerator Fund application. Three additions in the motion were strongly recommended by the federal Housing Minister in a letter to Mayor Gillingham. A strong application to the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund stands to unlock nearly $200 million in much needed money to support planning and affordable housing support initiatives in Winnipeg. The updated Housing Accelerator Fund goes to the full City Council on November 23rd, one day after National Housing Day. Approving a Housing Accelerator Fund application that would set Winnipeg on the path to ending Exclusionary Zoning is surely one of the most profound things City Council could do in recognition of National Housing Day and the need for housing affordability.
The Housing Accelerator Fund is a fund that encourages municipalities to undertake initiatives that increase housing supply and promote the development of affordable, inclusive and diverse communities that are low-carbon and climate-resilient. Winnipeg City Council has undertaken applying for Housing Accelerator Fund dollars following various motions since the October 2022 election to pursue affordable and supportive housing and address homelessness. Housing Accelerator Fund dollars would support affordable housing initiatives at the City of Winnipeg and zoning and land-use reforms along the lines recommended by the Housing Minister would make the process for building non-market and market multi-family infill and rental housing smoother.
The three changes the federal Housing Minister recommended for strengthening Winnipeg’s Housing Accelerator Fund application are as follows:
Legalizing four units as-of-right city-wide;
Legalizing up to four storeys as-of-right within 800 metres of frequent transit corridors;
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.
These additional items for the Housing Accelerator Fund application passed the Executive Policy Committee with this clarification:
These changes are subject to lot size considerations, building form standards and urban servicing capacity (including sufficient water, wastewater, land drainage and urban standard roadway availability).
It is likely further clarifications and parameters will be added to the motion for the full Winnipeg City Council meeting. The policy direction outlined in the Housing Accelerator Fund also needs to be enshrined through an update of the zoning bylaw. The bylaw update process, which will include public hearings and likely be funded in part with Housing Accelerator Fund dollars, will involve further clarifications, parameters, and caveats applied to the federal Housing Minister’s three recommended additions to Winnipeg’s Housing Accelerator Fund application. In the process of calibrating and refining the policy direction of Winnipeg’s Housing Accelerator Fund application into an updated zoning bylaw, it is imperative that the vision of ending Exclusionary Zoning be upheld rather than undermined.
Exclusionary Zoning is a policy approach, entrenched in many municipalities including Winnipeg, which excludes multi-family homes from vast residential areas of a city, reducing socioeconomic diversity and hindering affordability. Among the array of reasons some support Exclusionary Zoning practices, one is a desire for socioeconomic uniformity and a (without factual basis) belief that renters diminish house values as exemplified by statements like this. To build a better city, with affordable homes and smarter growth, Winnipeg needs to reject this opposition to allowing multi-family homes.
With National Housing Day coming up on November 22nd, all levels of government need to do their part to advance affordable housing and smarter growth. This includes support from all levels of government for the Five Pillars of A Social Housing Action Plan to preserve and expand the non-market, social housing stock in Manitoba. To this effect, we encourage supporters of housing affordability to partake in the Right to Housing Coalition’s letter writing campaign to the Manitoba Cabinet in advance of the Nov. 21st Speech from the Throne. For the City of Winnipeg, however, this also includes zoning and land-use reforms to make the process of constructing non-market and market multi-family infill housing smoother. This is one big action well within the City of Winnipeg’s power to do to support housing affordability.
As the Executive Director of the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association aptly notes:
“The Housing Accelerator Fund could bring almost $200 million dollars to help the City of Winnipeg play a more proactive and meaningful role in addressing homelessness and housing need. Importantly, it proposes changes to policies and by-laws that will make affordable housing development faster and easier beyond the lifetime of the fund.”
We ask Winnipeg City Council to do the right thing. End Exclusionary Zoning and secure nearly $200 million in federal funds. This would ensure a more affordable and sustainable Winnipeg better situated to address the diverse array of housing needs people have. A petition is in circulation requesting Councillors do just this and more details on this will follow in the coming days.