'It makes you suspicious': Kenora left out of feds’ Housing Accelerator Fund program, Poirier says

Kenora Mayor Andrew Poirier is frustrated that despite submitting an “aggressive” application, the City of Kenora has yet to receive any funding for housing from the federal government.

“I’m obviously quite concerned,” he told the Miner and News, “and I know some of the mayors I spoke to in the district were equally surprised and disappointed.”

As part of their larger National Housing Strategy, the federal government launched the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) last March with $4 billion in funding intended to fast track the construction of over 100,000 homes by 2027. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) the program received 544 applications from municipalities, and 179 have led to signed agreements so far.

Kenora’s application was submitted in August of last year, said Poirier, and it included plans for more than 700 housing units — a mixture of townhomes and apartments. Without the help of the HAF, the City of Kenora will have to find other ways to come up with the money for the developments.

“There's costs that have to be incurred for service extensions, roads - we're going to have to find ways to help fund those because we need housing,” said Poirier. “That's one of our major priorities right now.”

Since the application was submitted in August, city staff were debriefed and learned that it scored higher according to the CMHC’s own criteria than some of the applications from municipalities that did receive funding like Ajax, Thunder Bay, Marathon and St. Catherines, said Poirier. This has led him to question how exactly it was decided which municipalities would get funding, and when.

“A program like this would be heavily subscribed to, and I get that,” Poirier said, "but when you look at who received what, it makes you suspicious as to whether there was some politics in play instead of merit.”

Mayor Poirier has connected with Kenora’s MP, Eric Melillo to express his concerns about the lack of funding. “Melillo's fully aware of this,” the Mayor added, and he expects that the topic will come up again when the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) meets for their annual conference during April 24-26 in Thunder Bay.

Though Kenora hasn’t received funding from the HAF yet, more announcements are set to come in the future, and on April 2, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced additional funding for housing including an extra $400 million for the HAF alongside a new $6 billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund.

“Maybe there's some opportunities there, but we still have to continue to lobby and have discussions,” said Poirier about the announcement.

Serena Austin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kenora Miner and News