Fourplex spat between Queen’s Park and Ottawa has local implications

Given the federal requirement for funds, more municipalities may choose to embrace fourplexes in the months to come. Pictured: Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Photo Credit: Doug Ford/X. 

Premier Doug Ford has been in a recent back-and-forth with the Trudeau government in Ottawa about whether the province should force all municipalities to allow for the construction of all proposed fourplexes. 

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $5 billion to help fund infrastructure related to housing. 

The money is to be divided among Canada’s provinces and territories, but requires provincial governments to take action on a list of items laid out by the federal government, including a requirement that all provinces adopt a policy of allowing fourplexes as-of-right. 

Ford has thus far refused to back the measure. 

If Queen’s Park were to adopt a policy of allowing fourplexes as-of-right, municipalities across the province would be required to allow for the construction of four-unit dwellings on any land zoned as residential.

While Ford hasn’t come out against all fourplexes, he has repeatedly said that municipalities should be allowed to decide whether they want to allow for the construction of fourplexes in their local communities. 

“It’s not up to the province to dictate where every single building is going to go,” said Ford at a recent press conference in Vaughan. 

Provinces have until Jan. 1, 2025, to indicate to the federal government whether they plan to accept the federal government’s demands and access the $5-billion fund. If Ontario doesn’t accept the federal government’s conditions for the funding, the province will be unable to access its share of the funds. The feds might choose to give funding to cities that accept their conditions at the local level. 

Allowing for fourplexes was one of the recommendations made by the province’s housing task force.

Last month, St. Catharines city council officially adopted a new policy allowing for fourplexes to be built on residential lots as-of-right, precisely what the Trudeau government is pushing the Ford government to force Ontario municipalities to do. 

Larger Ontario cities, like Toronto and Mississauga, have also embraced an as-of-right fourplex policy. 

Ford’s rivals at the provincial level, including Liberal leader Bonnie Crombie and NDP leader Marit Stiles, have come out in support of requiring municipalities to accept fourplexes as-of-right. Crombie advocated for fourplexes while serving as mayor of Mississauga. 

Under present policy, developers can still apply to Ontario’s municipalities and request that fourplexes be permitted. The policy change would mean that fourplexes would be allowed automatically. Municipalities can also decide, as St. Catharines did, to offer a blanket approval of the construction of fourplexes on residential lots.  

Most Niagara area municipalities do not allow for fourplex as-of-right and a provincial requirement would require a change in those policies. Many allow for more than one but less than four: Niagara Falls recently adopted a measure to allow for three-unit buildings as-of-right.

Given the federal requirement for funds, more municipalities may choose to embrace fourplexes in the months to come. 

Ford’s housing minister, Paul Calandra, has said that he supports fourplexes and encourages municipalities to adopt as-of-right policies on fourplexes. But Calandra refuses to “micromanage” municipalities and require them to do so.


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