The Government of Canada announced details about the new Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) in March 2023. The HAF Fund was created to incentivize local governments to implement structural and lasting reforms that will increase the supply of housing. 

Municipalities were required to submit an action plan which needed to identify at least seven transformational initiatives outlining the number of new homes to be created.

Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) Action Plan initiatives

The City of Thunder Bay has been awarded $20.7 million for the funding of eight initiatives under the City Council approved HAF Action Plan. The target is 1691 housing units built by February 2027. The initiatives include:

#1: Multi-Unit & Affordable Housing Incentive
Currently affordable units are not developed fast enough to meet demand. Creation of an Affordable Housing Incentive Program could provide grants to boost affordable housing in target locations of the City of Thunder Bay. Part of the strategy may also include sale of city owned surplus lands for the purpose of affordable housing. An incentive for maximizing residential unit density up to the allowable limits in the zone would encourage developers to add additional units to planned developments.  
#2: Encouraging Additional Dwelling Units
This initiative aims to accelerate development of Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), including backyard homes, within the City of Thunder Bay’s Urban Low-rise Zone. Building on recent (2022) changes to the zoning by-law to allow as of right, up to four dwelling units per lot in this zone by creating an incentive program offering potential grants for the construction of ADUs. To accelerate the development process, pre-approved ADU "templates" will be made available for free-standing units. The initiative will also involve a public outreach and an awareness campaign about the program and bylaw changes.  
#3: Affordable Housing Navigator
Through this initiative, the City of Thunder Bay will hire an "Affordable Housing Navigator," who will work with non-profit housing developers, community organizations, advocacy groups, and developers looking to include affordable units in their projects. The Navigator provides free-of-charge guidance on how to navigate the development process (including municipal and provincial processes), where to find land, and funding opportunities. The Navigator is responsible for providing guidance to these or similar organizations, including neighbouring First Nations and urban Indigenous organizations, who are involved with supportive housing, transitional housing and other models of housing needed to meet identified needs in Thunder Bay. The Navigator is also responsible for identifying zoning by-law and policy amendments to further create systemic change in support of affordable housing.
#4: Vacant Commercial Development

Review and amend the zoning by-law to allow residential construction “as-of-right” over commercial sites. This means building new multi-unit housing would become a permitted use above the first storey, removing the requirement for a rezoning application and public hearing. The bylaw changes will encourage development of infill housing which is anticipated to be more sustainable than alternative forms of growth, reducing the financial burden of site servicing costs for the City in the long-term. The introduction of residential units in commercial areas will encourage urban renewal, especially in the core areas, and contribute to the creation of complete communities.

#5: Core Areas CIP for Residential Infill
This initiative is intended to review and revise Thunder Bay's current Core Areas “Community Improvement Plan” (CIP) with the objective of bolstering current incentives and accelerating housing under the HAF. Following that, the initiative will expand Thunder Bay's current Strategic Core Areas CIP grants to further incentivize residential infill development in the areas within the CIP. This initiative anticipates significant community renewal in the Northcore, Southcore and the Westfort and Bay/Algoma Business Districts. There are opportunities in these areas for both small-scale infill projects, and large-scale residential conversions of historic or other buildings. The grant program supports a mixture between redevelopments and new construction in these areas. 
#6: Secondary Planning & Infrastructure Planning in Support of Housing Strategy
The City of Thunder Bay's Housing Strategy (currently in final stages of its development) identifies large areas near the downtown cores and university neighbourhoods where residential development is not occurring due to the local trend toward greenfield development at the city fringes, and the lack of secondary and infrastructure planning. The strategy identifies potential infill areas with barriers to residential development due to fragmented property ownership and incremental property development. The initiative would aim to resolve a legacy of insufficient coordination of these lands so that land ownership can be consolidated, providing for a more efficient building process. Through this initiative, the City will undertake secondary planning for the areas with the highest potential for housing within the established urban infill areas.
#7: Vacant Industrial Land Assessment & Conversion Program
A 2020 Land Study identified 406 vacant, undeveloped properties that are currently designated for industrial use. Among these sites are a collective 42 hectares of properties individually measuring less than 0.5 hectares in size. The Study suggests these properties are limited in their potential for industrial development due to size. This initiative would target these properties for residential infill instead. Working with an environmental engineer to identify the best candidates, the City would systematically assess land for compatibility with residential use. Priority will be given to land that is city-owned, serviced, and with little-to-no remediation required. This will achieve faster processing times and ultimately bring more units online in the short-term. Properties deemed incompatible with residential use would be earmarked for land assembly, increasing their viability for industrial development while alleviating pressure on residential land within the settlement area.
#8: Developing an Archaeological Management Plan

Currently, developers are responsible for undertaking a Stage 1 Archaeological Assessment on properties meeting a criteria established by the province. This criterion is so broad that it encompasses 76% of lands within the municipal boundary. The City, in partnership with Lakehead University and Fort William First Nation, has undertaken a Heritage Inventory- a city-wide study of land with the aim to verify and correct the inventory of known sites. This study was completed in August 2023, laying the groundwork for an Archaeological Management Plan. An Archaeological Management Plan is a locally created plan that supports goals and directions of provincial planning documents, streamlines the planning and development and review process, and provides clear direction and a local lens for when Archaeological Assessments will be required. Such a plan would remove the financial uncertainty and time burden from the developer, accelerating the growth of housing by reducing the process requirements associated with development.

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About the HAF

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation administers HAF which provides incentive funding for local governments aimed at increasing the supply of housing. It supports the development of complete, low-carbon and climate-resilient communities that are affordable, inclusive, equitable and diverse.

FAQs

How do I qualify for the HAF?

The following types of housing could qualify for financial incentives:

  • Additional homes in detached houses and duplexes
  • Backyard homes
  • Residential multi unit buildings
  • Homes above downtown commercial buildings
  • Affordable housing developments

 

The following types of housing WILL NOT qualify for financial incentives:

  • Detached homes
  • Shared accommodations and rooming houses
  • Nursing home and assisted living units
What is a Community Improvement Plan (CIP)? 

A CIP is a tool used to focus municipal initiatives in areas of need of development and/or redevelopment. Adopting a CIP empowers the City to offer grants to cover all or part of the cost of eligible development projects. The City of Thunder Bay currently has a Strategic Core Areas CIP.

What is the missing middle?
“Missing middle housing” refers to housing types that fall somewhere in between a single-detached home and mid-rise apartment buildings – such as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and four plexes. This type of housing is our greatest need.
What are Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs)? 
ADUs are homes that are located in or on the same property as the main home. This could include additional homes in a single detatched house or backyard homes. When reviewing the Zoning by-law and other relevant documentation, it is important to know that the City has adopted the term “home” which is used interchangeably with “unit”. 
How can the community get involved? 

The community will have opportunities to provide input on the development of various incentives including CIPs. The creation of new CIPs and modification of existing CIPs are public planning processes which require a Public Meeting before City Council makes a decision. Once started, notification will be placed in the local newspaper and on the City’s website.

How can I find land to develop? 
At City Council’s direction, Administration has identified 40 City-owned parcels of land as suitable to be made available for the primary purpose of housing. These lands will be presented to Council in a series of reports and, as approved, will then be marketed as lands currently available for sale. 
What is the role of the Mayor’s Task Force on Building More Homes?

The Mayor’s Task Force on Building More Homes is an Advisory Committee of Council that includes citizen representatives with expertise in housing and related initiatives.

The role of the Mayor’s Task Force is to guide the implementation of the City’s Housing Pledge and Housing Accelerator Action Plans and recommend additional strategies and actions to accelerate the development of a range of housing types and affordability levels to meet the City’s housing needs.

Is there a timeframe to spend the incentive money? 
The City of Thunder Bay’s agreement is a multi-year agreement for the above eight HAF initiatives spanning 2024 -2027. Each initiative may have individual milestone dates to be achieved.
How is the city spending the funding?
The City of Thunder Bay has eight HAF initiatives. Each initiative has a number of milestones and allocation of funds to achieve realization of the milestones. They are listed above.
Will this funding help housing affordability challenges? 

Yes, there is direct funding for affordable housing. Also funding that can be leveraged to attain funding for affordable housing from sources beyond HAF. Generally, added housing supply affects affordability across the housing continuum.

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