TORONTO — The Ontario government unveiled plans to help to strengthen rural economies and get more homes and housing-enabling infrastructure built at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford shared new details regarding the expansion of Ontario’s $1.2 billion Building Faster Fund (BFF) to small, rural and northern municipalities that have not been assigned housing targets by the province. About $120 million or 10 per cent of the BFF will be reserved for these municipalities to help them build housing-enabling infrastructure, with the province intending to distribute these funds through an application-based process that will prioritize projects that can get shovels in the ground faster, indicates a release.
The province also plans to roll out BFF funding for municipalities that have met or exceeded their assigned housing targets over the next few months. Ford said the province intends to direct any unspent BFF funds from municipalities that have not met their housing targets into additional housing-enabling infrastructure investments that can be applied for by all municipalities, including those that have already received funding through the BFF.
Beginning Jan. 29, municipalities will be able to apply for funding through the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund to support municipal water projects that will help unlock housing opportunities and further protect communities, reported Kinga Surma, minister of infrastructure. The government is providing $200 million over three years to help municipalities repair, rehabilitate and expand critical drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson announced the start of consultations to help develop a new Rural Economic Development Strategy. Rural municipalities and the public will have an opportunity to share ideas about how Ontario can improve economic opportunities, create jobs and support growth in rural and Indigenous communities, states the release.
She also shared the opening of 2024/25 Rural Economic Development Program applications. Municipalities, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit groups have until Feb. 21 to apply for cost-share funding for projects that will drive economic growth.