Windsor to review building department after housing summit, but developer skeptical of plan to cut 'red tape'

The City of Windsor will look to review its planning and building department after a provincial housing summit Wednesday, but one local developer remains skeptical of potential changes. 

Province announced $45 million to increase development

Local developer Peter Valente (left) says while the new funding is good, he wants to actually see the talks turn into action. Executive director of Leamington's Bridge Youth Resource Centre, Krista Rempel, says it's currently hard to find good places for youth to transition into. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The City of Windsor will look to review its planning and building department after a provincial housing summit Wednesday, but one local developer remains skeptical of potential changes. 

The provincial government launched a virtual housing summit with a promise of more than $45 million to help Ontario's largest municipalities speed up development approvals, as opposition parties and housing advocates call for decisive measures to help bring down the cost of owning and renting a home in Ontario.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens was one of 29 other mayors from the province's largest municipalities that joined a call with Ontario premier Doug Ford and the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark to discuss housing affordability in the province. 

Dilkens told CBC News that the city will review its planning and building department and make sure there isn't unnecessary barriers. 

"[We're going to] try and reduce all of the red tape, shorten the timelines to the extent that we can shorten them and then make sure people who are coming in with development applications have certainty on when they hand it in and when it's going to come out the other end with approval," he said. 

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says the city will review its planning and development department to make it more efficient for building approvals. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Dilkens added that this will increase supply, with the end goal of stabilizing housing costs. 

Krista Rempel is the executive director of the Leamington's Bridge Youth Resource Centre. 

The organization houses youth who have housing instability or are homeless and helps them transition into their own places to live. Rempel said the funding announced Wednesday is good news. 

"From our provider perspective we are very excited about any opportunity that would look at creating more housing and rental opportunities. I think the things that we have seen in the few short years that we had our facility are very clear that there's not a lot out there we struggle to find safe housing for our youth to transition into" she said. 

Across Windsor-Essex, there are close to 5,000 people waiting for affordable housing units, according to Family Services Windsor-Essex executive director Joyce Zuk. 

She said that group of people likely have housing right now, but are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter — adding they are seeing clients spending 75 per cent of their income on rent. 

"[This] means people have less money to purchase the other necessities of life," she said. 

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, hosted a provincial-municipal housing summit. (Submitted by the Office of the Premier of Ontario)

Windsor resident Aubrey Murray is on fixed income and shares an apartment with roommates. He said it's hard to find decent living spaces in the region that meet his financial situation. 

"You cant find anything in your budget to begin with so you have to look for rooms, you have to look for accommodations that aren't necessarily what you're looking for," he said. 

'Getting harder ... to do development' 

Developer Peter Valente told CBC News he wants to see more affordable housing units built, but said the government's discussion Wednesday is something he's heard before. 

"What I've experienced over the last 10 years is a lot of this talk about cutting red tape, but not any red tape actually being cut," he said.

"In fact it's getting harder and harder and harder to do development, because there's more of these outside agencies that we have to look to approvals for that don't necessarily congrue with one another." 

He mentioned the need for land and species assessments, which can take time to perform. 

Valente said the funding announced "sounds great," but the proof will be in how fast developers can start getting permits to build. 

Ontario's Progressive Conservative government also announced a housing affordability task force to look into measures to boost the supply of rental and ownership housing, reduce red tape, and other options to address housing issues.

A report laying out its recommendations is expected to be published early next year.

With files from the Canadian Press


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