Is Thunder Bay Embarking on a Historic Housing Boom Journey?

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Thunder Bay Anticipates Population and Housing Growth with Federal Funding and Provincial Achievements

A New Era of Development in Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay’s city leaders are abuzz with excitement over the prospect of a significant population and housing boom. This enthusiasm is bolstered by the successful completion of provincial housing goals and the potential infusion of up to $46 million in federal housing funds. If the federal funding application is approved, Thunder Bay could witness the construction of over 2,100 new housing units in the next three years, a development pace unprecedented in the city’s recent history.

Exceeding Provincial Housing Targets

Thunder Bay has distinguished itself among Ontario municipalities by surpassing its provincial housing target for 2023. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Thunder Bay had initiated 167 new housing starts as of October, exceeding the provincial goal of 161. This accomplishment positions Thunder Bay for additional support from Ontario’s “Building Faster Fund,” expected to contribute over $600,000 to the city.

“By creating the city’s new zoning bylaw, City Council proactively supported multi-residential housing, and that has dramatically accelerated the development process,” said Joel DePeuter, Director of Development Services. “Capitalizing on this momentum, we have applied to the CMHC’s Housing Accelerator Fund for $46 million with a target of building 2,200 homes in 3 years.”

Mayor Ken Boshcoff has issued an open letter to Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser urging the approval of Thunder Bay’s $46 million application.

“We are all in on housing development and the city team is working hard to set the stage for development success. Our focus is the same as the Federal government,” said Mayor Boshcoff. “We want to build as many homes as possible, as quickly as we can.”

The Housing Accelerator Fund asks for action plans from local governments and provides upfront funding to ensure the timely building of new homes, as well as additional funds upon delivering results. Local governments are encouraged to be innovative and aggressive in their approaches to accelerating project timelines, allowing increased housing density, and encouraging affordable housing units.

“We recognize that the target is aggressive, and we’ve shown that we are up to the challenge,” continued DePeuter. “We have a new Zoning By-law and Official Plan that makes it easier to build additional dwellings units, multi-residential units and other types of housing, and we are identifying city lands that could be used for housing development.”

Federal Funding: A Potential Game-Changer

The city’s focus now shifts to the potential gains from a substantial $46 million request from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. This funding could significantly elevate Thunder Bay’s housing market, allowing for the construction of more than 2,100 new housing units over three years. Without this funding, the projection drops drastically to about 500 units.

Paving the Way for Housing Diversity

Joel DePeuter, Director of Development Services, highlights Thunder Bay’s progress in this ambitious undertaking. By October, building permits for 290 residential units had been issued, nearly doubling the city’s five-year average. Notably, more than 230 of these units are part of multi-unit buildings, broadening the range of housing options in Thunder Bay.

Incentivizing Construction

Thunder Bay plans to introduce developer incentives through the accelerator funding. Grants of $20,000 or more per unit aim to stimulate construction, with additional incentives for affordable units and urban infill projects. The city’s application also proposes hiring an affordable housing navigator and converting vacant commercial and industrial lands into housing.

Mining Boom to Boost Growth

A significant mining boom is on the horizon for Thunder Bay, with projections of peaking new mine construction in 2027-2028, potentially creating 3,000 to 4,000 new jobs. This development is expected to attract workers and their families, contributing to the city’s growth and prosperity.

Thunder Bay’s Strategic Position for Investment

With ample land availability, Thunder Bay is uniquely positioned for investment and development, distinguishing itself from many Southern Ontario cities facing land and infrastructure constraints. The potential federal housing investment promises to yield substantial results, marking a significant step in the city’s expansion.

FAQs

Thunder Bay’s Housing Development Plan: Thunder Bay aims to build over 2,100 new housing units in three years with $46 million in federal funding. Without this funding, the projection is around 500 units.

Incentives for Construction: The city will offer grants of $20,000 or more per unit to developers, with additional incentives for affordable housing and urban infill projects.

Factors Fueling Housing Boom Optimism: Successful provincial housing goals, potential federal funding, and an upcoming mining boom are key drivers of Thunder Bay’s optimistic housing outlook.

Need for External Builders: While collaboration with builders outside Thunder Bay might be necessary, the city believes local builders can meet the housing demand with appropriate incentives.

Timeline for Funding Response: The city expects a prompt response from the federal government regarding the Housing Accelerator Fund application due to the urgent nature of the funding.

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