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Where do Canada’s premiers stand on tying federal cash to fourplexes?

Many of Canada’s provincial governments say they are not willing to go along with the conditions to access a proposed $6-billion infrastructure fund tying eligibility for federal cash to making it easier to build fourplexes.

“I don’t believe in forcing municipalities, I believe in working with municipalities. I’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference in Vaughn, Ont., Wednesday.

“I’m going to leave that up to each municipality to decide, because they know better than the province and the federal government.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Housing Minister Sean Fraser announced a federal budget plan to create a $6-billion municipal infrastructure fund to speed up the development of key pieces of housing infrastructure like water and sewage hookups.

Most of the money is planned to go to the provinces — but to access it, provinces must come to agreements with Ottawa to have municipalities pre-approve zoning for fourplexes and other smaller multi-dwelling housing options.

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Ford previously said he is supportive of a single-family home being converted to a fourplex, but opposes “four-storey towers” being pre-approved in residential neighbourhoods.

Read more about what a fourplex is and is not in this Global News story.

Click to play video: 'N.B. premier frustrated with federal housing money requirement'

N.B. premier frustrated with federal housing money requirement

On Tuesday, Fraser was asked about Ford’s opposition to zoning reforms to allow fourplexes.

“I’m not sure what Premier Ford’s next move may be, but we wanted to incentivize the kinds of changes that are needed to solve the national housing crisis, not just play at the margins,” Fraser said.

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“To the extent we’re going to be putting federal money into new housing-enabling infrastructure, we want to make sure we’re getting a good deal for taxpayers.”

In Quebec, Canadian Relations Minister Jean-François Roberge and Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau issued a joint statement saying the federal government is interfering in their jurisdiction by trying to tie funding to zoning reforms, while not addressing issues like asylum seekers.

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“If the federal government wants to help solve the housing problem, it should immediately correct the disproportionate proportion of asylum seekers sent to Quebec; a situation with tangible consequences for our public services,” they said.

“There is no question of Quebec complying with several conditions to simply obtain its fair share of this envelope. Quebec must be able to exercise its right of withdrawal with full compensation and without any conditions.”

Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon also issued a joint statement, saying they have “deep concerns” about Ottawa encroaching on provincial jurisdiction.

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“The Federal Government has not been clear on how they plan to distribute this funding. No information has been provided about whether funding will be provided per capita, to ensure it is not used for political gain,” they wrote.

In neighbouring Saskatchewan, government spokesperson Matthew Glover says they share concerns over the federal government wading into provincial jurisdiction.

“While multi-dwelling housing may be a high priority in major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver, it is not a high priority in most Saskatchewan communities, so we do not want to see this new fund come at the expense of infrastructure priorities in Saskatchewan due to our unique needs,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

However, there is some support for the policy proposal.

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In British Columbia, the NDP government passed legislation requiring municipalities of more than 5,000 people to amend their zoning bylaws to allow these types of builds by June 30.

Premier David Eby said Tuesday that he’s seen the broad strokes of the federal proposal and said there are pieces he finds “very helpful.”

“The program appears to endorse British Columbia’s approach to getting housing built. We think it’s critically important to tie infrastructure funding to a clear commitment to build housing,” Eby said.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Tuesday that everyone shares the same goal of trying to get more homes built, but has reservations about deals having conditions laid out like this.

“It’s a bit unfortunate that it’s a bit take-it-or-leave-it, where it’s, ‘Here’s our option and if you don’t agree, too bad.’ I think that any relationship we have should built on a rational discussion of what our program needs, not what the conditions are,” Higgs told reporters at the New Brunswick legislature.

Speaking on background, a representative with the Nova Scotia government says at first glance they are pleased to see their call for more housing funding answered, but need to further review the details of the proposed funding agreement.

Click to play video: 'PM makes stop in N.S ahead of upcoming budget'

PM makes stop in N.S ahead of upcoming budget

The Liberals’ stated focus is to try and make the housing market fairer for millennials and gen Z.

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This followed a report from RBC showing that interest rates pushed home ownership to its most unaffordable levels ever. According to the report, a household with an average income needs to spend 63.5 per cent of its income to cover the cost of owning an average home.

Global News has reached out to the other premiers for comment.

Provinces have until Jan. 1, 2025 to strike a deal with Ottawa to access this infrastructure funding, and the deadline for the territories is April 1, 2025.

If deals don’t happen, Ottawa plans to divert provincial funding to the municipal funding stream.

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