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New federal housing fund welcome, but will come with challenges: HAVAN

'I'm hoping it's not going to turn into let's throw it at the wall and see what sticks.'
Local governments will be able to apply for the funding in June 2023. The program will run until 2026 to 2027, according to the Government of Canada.

Local B.C. governments looking to tackle housing and affordability now have the opportunity to access funding through the launch of the new Housing Accelerator Fund (HAV), according to a Government of Canada press release. 

While the program launch is a welcome addition to the effort to add more housing, "the devil is in the details," said Ron Rapp, Homebuilders Association Vancouver's CEO (HAVAN) CEO. 

"It's fantastic that the focus is on increasing supply and finding the mechanisms to make that happen and providing the resources to potentially realize those goals," said Rapp. "The challenge, however, is you can throw all kinds of money at this stuff, but you have to have the mechanism by which to administer it." 

The program launched on March 17 after first being introduced in the federal government's Budget 2022, according to the Government of Canada. The $4 billion initiative will work to fast-track the building of 100,000 new and affordable homes across Canada. Local governments are invited to develop action plans and submit them in June to be considered for funding. The goal is to cut down on red tape that may create barriers to building housing faster. 

"The money is great; it is welcome and, in some respects, well overdue, but at this particular moment in time, it feels almost like too much coming too fast. How do you digest all of this and find the appropriate means by which to apply it," Rapp said, referencing the announcement in addition to other housing initiatives launched by the B.C. government. 

The federal government aims to double the rate of housing construction over the next decade, according to their press release. To do this, the fund will help tackle issues surrounding permitting and zoning regulations and incentivize development around transit. 

Rapp highlighted that many municipalities don't have the staff and the resources to streamline the processes blocking more housing construction. In some cases, he said, they are competing for labour resources.

"We're seeing a migration from one municipality to the next as they're literally poaching staff from one another," he said. 

In other cases, streamlining the plethora of regulations and bylaws surrounding housing development can be a significant undertaking, according to Rapp. He described 

"It's like one thing on top of another to the point where it has become so complex that it becomes difficult to pull apart and expedite because it's passing through 35 or 40 hands before it reaches the end of the process," he said. 

The Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) released a statement saying that these new measures are a welcome addition to the efforts toward tackling the housing crisis. 

"CHBA has long called for collaboration across all levels of government to address housing affordability, and especially housing supply, given the direct link that not enough homes have on the cost of buying and renting. We hope the Housing Accelerator Fund is the encouragement municipalities need to address bottlenecks and accelerate more supply," said Kevin Lee, CEO of CHBA.

Lee said that there has been resistance from certain municipalities when it comes to unlocking supply. He hopes that this new funding will work to reverse that.