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Press Release: End Exclusionary Zoning with the HAF

Tomorrow the Executive Policy Committee of Winnipeg City Council will decide whether to move forward on a once-in-a-generation opportunity for bold, positive change. If the Executive Policy Committee votes in favour of three changes strongly recommended by the federal Housing Minister in a letter to Mayor Gillingham then Winnipeg will be on track to end Exclusionary Zoning and receive nearly $200 million in federal funds. It is imperative that the Executive Policy Committee tomorrow and the full City Council on November 23rd vote in favour of including the Housing Minister’s recommendations in Winnipeg’s application to the Housing Accelerator Fund. A petition urging City Councillors to follow through on this is in circulation right now.

The Housing Accelerator Fund is a $4 billion federal government 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. This 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.

Once implemented and enshrined in the bylaws, these reforms would end Exclusionary Zoning in Winnipeg. 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. We encourage people to participate in the Right to Housing Coalition’s letter writing campaign to Manitoba’s Cabinet Ministers in advance of the Nov. 21st Speech from the Throne. For the City of Winnipeg, in addition to targeted programs to assist nonprofit builders and funding for the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation, a pro-housing agenda 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 high value, 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.” 

The motion which the Executive Policy Committee will vote on this Tuesday notes that while zoning will no longer block fourplex, triplex, and duplex projects in single-family zoned lots there still are other considerations and restrictions. Dimensional standards and water and sewer servicing capacity, as determined by the City’s professional civil service, will serve as limits to particular projects. Further regulatory details and parameters will be determined through the process, to begin after the changes to Housing Accelerator Fund application are finalized and likely funded by the Housing Accelerator Fund, of enshrining the new policy direction through an update of the zoning bylaw.

Given what is at stake, it would be unconscionable for councillors to jeopardize nearly $200 million in federal funds and a more affordable future just to avoid doing the right thing. For ourselves, our families, our children, our friends, our colleagues, and our brothers and sisters across the City, we must end Exclusionary Zoning through the Housing Accelerator Fund.

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