DAN CEARNS The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes has accepted the Ontario provincial government's housing creation target and is expected to respond to the province by the imposed deadline.
In August, the provincial government announced they were launching what is known as the Building Faster Fund and created housing targets for a number of municipalities. Kawartha Lakes' housing target is 6,500 new homes by 2031.
"The Building Faster Fund will provide $400 million in new annual funding for three years to municipalities that are on target to meet provincial housing targets by 2031. Municipalities that reach 80 percent of their annual target each year will become eligible for funding based on their share of the overall goal of 1.5 million homes. Municipalities that exceed their target will receive a bonus on top of their allocation," a provincial press release explained.
The municipalities which agree to their provincial housing targets will receive what the province calls "strong mayor" powers.
At a meeting on Tuesday, September 26th, Kawartha Lakes councillors agreed this funding opportunity is too great to pass up.
"It's getting to the endgame, and the endgame is we have to endorse and follow that 6,500, so we're eligible for that funding [which is] out there. And we need to have that funding, so for me, this is the step we need to take," Ward 8 Councillor and Deputy Mayor Tracy Richardson said.
Ward 2 councillor Pat Warren said she was in favour of supporting this target because "we do need the funding."
At a council meeting on Tuesday, August 29th, Mayor Doug Elmslie explained what "strong mayor" powers are.
"Strong mayor powers and duties include choosing to appoint the municipality's Chief Administrative Officer, hiring certain municipal department heads and establishing and reorganizing departments, creating committees of council, assigning their functions and appointing the chairs and vice chairs, proposing the municipal budget which would be subject to council amendments, vetoing certain bylaws if the head of council is of the opinion that all or part of the bylaw could potentially interfere with a provincial priority, [and] bringing forward matters for council consideration if the head of council is of the opinion that considering the manner could advance a provincial priority."
But, at the September meeting, Mayor Elmslie reiterated comments he made in August about the likelihood of him using any of these powers.
"We have always acted in a collaborative manner. We have always acted in accordance with democratic procedures, in that we consult with the council on how we do things," he said. "As I've said to you before, and I've said to the press, I do not envision a time when I would use Strong Mayor powers."
Ward 4 Councillor Dan Joyce commented that while this council trusts Mayor Elmslie, he doesn't know how future elected mayors would handle these powers.
"We have a strong democracy, with guard rails. The guard rails are important," he said.
Mayor Elmslie responded, pointing out council can overturn any decision a mayor makes with the "Strong Mayor" powers with a two-thirds majority vote.
"There are checks and balances in there," he said.
The motion to support the housing target was passed unanimously. The City has until October 15th to respond in writing to the provincial government.