Federal budget’s housing measures could impact Fort Erie development plans

Given the size of the country, both from a geographic and population standpoint, the federal annual budget takes a high level view of things. But despite that, Tuesday’s budget tabled by the governing Liberals does include a few items that may be of specific importance in Fort Erie.

Like most Canadians, Fort Erie residents will be interested to hear about some of the major funding announcements, projects and programs the federal government is planning to undertake in the coming years, as well as how they’re planning to pay for it. However, here are a few topics that local residents may want to pay closer attention to.

HOUSING

Much of the headlines from Tuesday’s budget revolved around the government’s efforts to build housing and provide more affordable options for Canadians. Fort Erie is far from alone in trying to address housing shortages.

According to the proposed budget, the federal government plans to “unlock 3.87 million new homes”, which includes a minimum of 2 million net new homes on top of the 1.87 million homes expected to be built anyway, by 2031.

A new Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund will see $6 billion in funding up for grabs over a 10-year span to improve infrastructure and enable more housing supply and densification.

Another $410 million over four years will be sent to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to launch a new Canada Secondary Suite Loan Program, which will give homeowners a chance to receive up to $40,000 in low-interest loans to add secondary suites to their properties.

There’s also $975 million set aside over five years to have the CMHC launch a new Rapid Housing stream under the Affordable Housing Fund.

Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said he was still digesting the budget and added that a lot of the initiatives won’t directly impact municipalities, since they’re creatures of the province.

“But there may be some affordable housing matters that will assist developers to construct rental apartments and affordable units. That will depend on how the feds determine to distribute money in that regard,” he said in an email.

“If through CMHC, which would make sense for some proposed builds, that will assist developers with whom we have been working.”

Other measures are aimed at protecting tenants, and making it easier for first-time home buyers to get into the market. There will also be a new tax on residentially zoned vacant land, and restrictions on large corporate investors buying up single-family homes.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In recent years Fort Erie and the surrounding area has been battered at times with brutal storms, leading to flooding. A few announcements in the budget will seek to address some of those issues and help homeowners affected.

The Liberals are planning to establish a subsidiary of the CMHC to deliver flood reinsurance, and will be spending $15 million to implement a national flood insurance program by next year.

Another $6.9 million over five years is proposed for the Meteorological Service of Canada’s early warning system for extreme weather events. There’s also $1.4 million in ongoing funding planned, and the budget says there will be a focus on floods and storm surges.

HEALTH CARE

As Fort Erie continues to fight to maintain healthcare services in town, the federal government has announced $77 million in funding over four years to better integrate internationally educated health care professionals into the country’s workforce.

At a community meeting hosted by Niagara Health last month, senior executives blamed human resource shortages as one of the main reasons it’s being forced to re-imagine how health care is provided in Fort Erie and the region.

INDIGENOUS

Among several announcements aimed at advancing truth and reconciliation was one that could benefit a local organization.

Over the next two years, the government will be providing $60 million to support Friendship Centres like the one in Fort Erie.

“(Friendship centres) provide much-needed supports and services to members of their communities across a range of areas including health, housing, education, recreation, language, justice, employment, economic development, culture, and community wellness,” the budget reads.

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