Housing Strategy will go to Council to approve a $300,000 spend that could be the rock that the next municipal election will rest on

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

January 18th, 2021



It is a bold proposal.

Create a housing strategy for a city that is one of the more expensive places in the province to live – save Toronto.

And get the policy in place before the end of the current term of this council.

The timeline suggests this is going to be THE platform the Mayor creates for her re-election in October of 2022. If she does it right the rest of Council might ride back into office on her coat tails.

The principal objective of the project is to develop an innovative Housing Strategy for the City of Burlington that sets out policies, tools and actions to address housing needs now and in the future.

Continuim graphic

The Housing Strategy will build on and support the Region’s Housing Strategy through the development of local solutions to housing issues in the City of Burlington.

The key outcomes of the City’s Housing Strategy include:

• Understanding the key players and their respective roles in housing;
• Understanding the current state of housing in Burlington and identifying current and future housing needs;
• Establishing a toolbox of best practices in housing, focusing on innovative practices and new, pioneering ideas;
• Developing of a set of action-oriented housing objectives and an associated implementation plan;
• Establishing where the City wants to focus or prioritize efforts to address housing issues in the City.

The creating of a strategy will provide an opportunity to look for creative and innovative solutions to address local housing issues through the consideration of a variety of planning policy and financial tools, partnership, collaboration and advocacy opportunities, strategies and initiatives.

The players

Big picture housing policies

The federal government has a finger in the pie – they create a national strategy, provide some funding and let the provinces work it out. Each province develops its plan, sometimes with funding. Burlington is part of the Halton Region – the Region creates the policy and for the most part, runs the plans. Burlington appears to want to break that pattern and do something unique on its own.

Just about everyone is in the housing game.

The federal government has been chipping away at a federal program with CMHC (Central Mortgage and Housing) playing an innovative leadership role.

The province’s Ministry of Housing has their fingers in the mix and, depending on the stripe and colour of the government, it can be developer-driven or something a little more liberal and progressive.

Toronto has always been a leader.

The Regional governments have played a role but in Halton’s case it was never very driven or creative.

The Region produces an annual report on what exists, what it costs and where the shortfall is.

That shortfall is always on the lower end of the economic scale.

Halton has a policy of buying units in high rise developments and renting those out. The co-op movement, including Habitat for Humanity, builds housing that puts homes in place.

During her first term as Councillor for Ward 2 Marianne Meed Ward was instrumental in convincing the Molinaro Group to work with the Region.  The result was 15 units being sold to the Region which became part of their inventory.

And then there is the individual investor who might own a small apartment complex or a couple of triplexes.

In Burlington the development community has found the high end condominium market to be their sweet spot.

Continuim with data

There is a clear division on what the governments will subsidize and what they leave to the private sector.

Burlington is a lower tier municipality within the Region of Halton; social housing is a Regional responsibility.

This current city council has decided they want to do better than the Regional policy partly for ideological reasons and partly to create housing for people in the local labour force.

Many people at the Fearman’s plant can’t afford to live in the city.  Same with the hospital – Burlington is an expensive city.

There really isn’t anyone committed to building housing for the lower, affordable market.  These are not houses for people on welfare; these are homes for people who want to get into the market and live in the city.

What exactly is this to phase of the project setting out to do within the next 18 months?

Project time line

The City of Burlington’s new Official Plan recognizes that housing is fundamental to the social, economic and physical well-being of the city’s residents, and promotes a land use pattern that supports a full range and mix of housing options across the city. The identification of an urban structure and the establishment of a growth framework in the new Official Plan identifies areas in the city where growth and transition is expected.

These areas identified as the most appropriate locations for intensification will support the provision of a wider range of housing options in addition to jobs and more mobility choices. Other housing policies within the new Official Plan relate to housing supply, including the use of surplus lands; housing tenure including rental conversion policies, as well as policies to support the development of affordable, assisted and special needs housing.

The new Official Plan also contains an updated policy framework for additional residential units and provides direction for the development of a city-wide housing strategy that will consider a number of elements, including strategies, financial incentives and tools such as an Inclusionary Zoning by-law program.

City policy baseBurlington works from the policies set out in the Strategic Plan, which is a document with a 25-year time frame.  Every term of Council (4 years) has a Vision to Focus (V2F) which sets out what city council hopes to achieve while they are in office.

Each year the city creates two budgets: One for Capital Expenses and a second for Operations expenses.

The Housing Strategy is something this council wants to have in place for the next municipal election.  They will pay for the work out of the current budget which is expected to be a whopper, due  in large measure to expenses due to Covid and revenue losses as a result of Covid.

The City’s Housing Strategy project has been divided into two phases.

Phase 1 time line - then ph 2 implementPhase 1 of the project will be consultant led and will deliver the necessary background information, data, analysis of needs and trends, and insight on best practices and more broadly new ideas to address local housing issues.

The Phase 1 deliverable will be the development of a made in Burlington innovative Housing Strategy, which will include a set of city-wide housing objectives supported by recommended action items, each with an associated implementation and monitoring plan.

The project consultant will also provide a recommended approach for phased implementation of the action items (short, medium and long term) for Council’s consideration.

Phase 2 of the project involves the implementation of the recommended actions contained within the Housing Strategy developed through the Phase 1 work and approved by Council.

Community engagement.
Council will always find time to talk about engaging the community.

The challenge is, when coming up with an engagement plan that actually engages, something falls between the cracks.

The Engagement Plan is a key deliverable to support the development of the Housing Strategy. The Plan is a strategic public document that will be developed and led by City staff and informed by feedback from Council, ChAT, the project Steering Committee, the Housing Strategy working group and other key stakeholders as outlined in the recommendation above. Additional resources may be required to deliver the Engagement Plan. Those additional resources will be identified at the time of the preparation of the Engagement Plan.

Engagement graphicA Housing Strategy working group will be established with a maximum membership of 20 people with volunteers from a variety of sectors including government, not for profit, co- op, the business community, as well as residents working together to support the development of the Housing Strategy.

Additionally, the working group will include the Mayor and at least one additional member of Council designated through an expression of interest brought forward by the City Clerk.

The working group will advise on local issues, be champions for the project, provide key insights given their diverse backgrounds, and will contribute to the refinement and implementation of the engagement plan.

An internal Housing Strategy Steering Committee comprised of city Staff will be established to give strategic advice on matters related to this project. The work of the Steering Committee will be guided by a Committee Terms of Reference to be developed at the time of the preparation of the Engagement Plan.

The Engagement Plan will identify opportunities for all interested parties to engage throughout the entirety of the process.
Although the details of the Engagement Plan will emerge in 2021, Staff have prepared a draft decision statement that guides engagement and communication strategies and tactics:

2022 objective statementIn 2022, Burlington City Council will vote to endorse a City of Burlington Housing Strategy to increase options for housing across the city.

The tab for this one will be $300,000 that will go to Council on Januaryclsua 19th, which is the day that the book with the Operational budget gets placed in the hands of council.

The day after the public will get a chance to take part in a virtual Town Hall on the Budget.

A housing Strategy is a good idea.  $300,000 is a lot of money to spend at a time when the budget the public will see later this week is going to have a lot of surprises.

Much more to learn about this latest idea from the mind of the Mayor and her Council.


Return to the Front page

Shake up on the city council committee structure; couple of surprises and at least one disappointment.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 24, 2011   – If you are one of the at least 25 people who actually watch City Council meetings on Cogeco Cable you will hear the Mayor explain that “the heavy lifting” on the city`s business is done at the Council committee level – which are not broadcast live only on line a day or so after the meeting.

The three committees are:

Kim Phillips, General Manager Budget and Corporate Services, is the strongest administrator at the GM level and has the deepest experience on the technical stuff that makes the wheels turn at the department level.

Budget and Corporate Services

Kim Phillips is the General Manager who heads up this arm of the city’s administration.  The current chair is Paul Sharman of Ward 5, with John Taylor of Ward 3 as his vice chair.

Community Development

Steve Zorbas, General Manager, Development and Infrastructure is not yet a fully tested GM and still has "Acting" in front of his title. New City Manager will have to determine what to do with the title or with the person. Here he speaks with Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward

Steve Zorbas, Acting General Manger of Development and Infrastructure leads the charge for this Committee, which is chaired by Jack Dennison of Ward 4  who is backed up by Marianne Meed Ward of Ward 2.

Community Services

Scott Stewart is the General Manager who heads up this arm of the city administration.  The current committee chair is Rick Craven of Ward 1 with Blair Lancaster of Ward 6 backing him up

Each year a new chair and vice chair are voted in by the members of city council.  Staff, who sit on the other side of the council horseshoe shaped table, just sit and watch and then figure out how they will deal with the new chair voted in.

They got a bit of a jolt when Paul Sharman was given Budget and Corporate Services last December and he kept surprising everyone with a bold, aggressive stance on many issues and some suggestions that had both his colleagues and staff gulping.  He has slowed down a bit and we will hear less from him now that he has been voted in as the vice chair of the Community Services Committee.

Last year we had:

Craven heading up Community Services; Sharman headed up Budget and Corporate Services and Dennison headed up Community Development.

This time out it is going to be different:

On motion, Councillors Meed Ward and Dennison were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Community Development Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

On motion, Councillors Craven and Taylor were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Budget & Corporate Services Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

On motion, Councillors Lancaster and Sharman were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Community Services Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

This is a much different line up.  Dennison was never a very effective chair; Craven is the best chair the city has and was asked to take on the role of chairing Budget and Corporate Services by the Mayor.  Meed Ward, who can be contentious, will likely spend the holidays poring over the Procedural By-Law, something Sharman never managed to do.  It is going to be very interesting to see how Meed Ward manages herself; how executive she is able to be.  This will be the first time that she has a task that she can actually lead on – and perhaps show some of the other Council members how a “real” chair does the job.  It could well be a bit of a defining experience for her and finally give her the opportunity to spread her wings beyond her ward in a way that doesn’t offend other Council members the way it has in the past.

Lancaster of Ward 6 is still developing her personality as a Council member. Being given a committee to chair is a good administrative move. That the chairs were "elected" by their peers is a bit mis-leading. The Mayor has his fingerprints all over this process.

Lancaster will have her hands full as a chair.  She is not a strong administrator but she has a strong General Manager to support her.  It will take a couple of meetings to see how Sharman settles into a much, much lesser role.  There was some surprise around the horseshoe when the Mayor put Sharman`s name forward as the vice-chair of a committee that will not have that strong a chair.

This isn’t intended to suggest Lancaster doesn`t know what she is doing – she tends to focus on values and doing the right thing, which is not always evident in some other members of Council.  Managing a committee, especially one that interacts as much as it does with the different communities will be interesting to see.

The Mayor continues to surprise people with his executive talent.  Difficult to see just what he has in mind with this new line up, but it is quite clear it is his line up.

City Council  will be meeting very early on Monday, November 28th, at a local hotel, to perhaps bring to a close another major staffing shake up which started when the Mayor accepted then City Manager Roman Martiuk’s offer to “step aside”  and leave the employ of the city.

The new City Manager selection process is now in it`s final phase – they just might make a final decision at the November 28th meeting.  One of the candidates for the job is current General Manager of Community Services, Scott Stewart.  Should he be offered the job the amount of time to get up to speed will be decreased considerably and that will bring to the surface some significant problems with the number of people in senior positions with the word Acting” stuck in front of their title.

Scott Stewart, GM Community Services: He will never serve as a diplomat - much more of an in charge guy who gets things done. Is he the kind of right hand man the Mayor wants or needs?

Stewart is more than capable of doing the job of City Manger – he knows the file and he knows where the bench strength of the management team exists.  However, his skill set is not the most important element in the hiring of a City Manager.  The relationship between a Mayor and a City Manager is a very tight one; it is almost an intimate relationship and certainly an intellectually intimate one.  It is essential that they both be on the same page and that each understands their role.  Part of Martiuk’s  “stepping aside”  was because he wasn’t on the same page as either the Mayor or much of the Council.  He certainly wasn’t on the same page as former Mayor Jackson who would claim that Martiuk blocked him at every turn – and with Jackson there were many turns because he didn’t fully understand how municipal government works..

Stewart would never get a job as a member of the diplomatic corps.  He is blunt, direct and he gets things done.   Appreciate that Goldring will have to decide if Stewart is the man that can help him achieve his dream, vision and hopes for the city.  Is he too strong a personality or is his strong personality just what the Mayor needs ?  That is something that will get worked through in the interviewing process.

However the Mayor is just one of seven votes – this has to be a majority vote and given the way Goldring works he will look for a unanimous vote.  Appreciate that there is at least one member of Council with aspirations to become Mayor in the future and perhaps two.  They will look at Stewart and wonder:  Could I be Mayor with this guy as the city manager ?   They may not admit to such thoughts – but this is politics, never forget that.  Politics is about power and the Mayor will want to ensure that he has someone who can help him wield that power.

Frank McKeown on the left talking to Councillor Sharman. McKeown was often referred to as the "seventh" council member during the Strategic Planning session, a term that didn't go over all that well with some senior staff but he has served the Mayor exceptionally well.

Goldring made an excellent choice in choosing Frank McKeown  to serve as his top aide.  Goldring would  not be the Mayor he is today without McKeown  or for that matter without Daphne Jaques.  Both fully understand Goldring and are able to take a concept he develops and execute on that concept almost flawlessly.  Evidence of that was seen in the speakers that were chosen for the Mayor’s Inspire speakers series.  Goldring knew what he wanted, outlined it to McKeown and Jaques and they followed through.

If a Mayor has that kind of support people in place he can get things done.  There are still people who use the phrase – he looked like a deer caught in the headlights – to describe the Mayor and, in the early stages of his term of office that is exactly what he looked like – but that description doesn’t apply today.

Mayor Goldring is in the second phaase of shaping the Council and staff he wants and needs to move forward with his agenda for the city. As collaborative and conciliatory as the Mayoe behaves - make no mistake he has an agenda.

Goldring has a very firm grip on his job: likes it, has yet to make a serious mistake, and is loved by the voters.  He is in the game for a second term for certain and short of a major, major gaff, and that just isn’t in the cards with this guy, he is in for two terms and perhaps even a third term if that`s what he wants.  But that is looking well into the future and crystal balls are very unreliable.

Right now the Mayor wants a city manager that he can move forward with to continue the job he has been doing.  The Mayor and his council may well have that decision made before the end of the month.

Then the new City Manager and Council have to deal with the people who have the word Acting in front of their title.  Acting Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glen  should have had the word removed some time ago.  He has performed well and the person he replaced is on disability and will stay there.

Acting Executive Director of Finance Joan Ford was given the job when Steve Zorbas moved on and up to the job as Acting General Manager of Development and Infrastructure.  There are concerns in the minds of several council members about his performance at the Economic Development Corporation and in a number of other areas – so that Acting still being in place could be saying something.  Should Zorbas go back to Finance – where does Ford go ?  If Zorbas is confirmed – is Ford really on top of the job of senior finance person for the city?

These are questions that will sit on the desk of the new City Manager come January.  Know this, your Mayor wants a stronger team running the city and the “stepping aside”  done by former City Manager Roman Martiuk might get played out again at other levels.  This Mayor can now stare down any headlights coming at him.  Still a “nice guy”  but now very much a Mayor in charge of his city in a collaborative relationship with his Council.

I don`t think anyone saw this coming last December 1st.


Return to the Front page

How did she get to see a copy of the contract and what`s in that big orange boxÉ

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 5, 2011  The contract isn`t signed – yet; lawyers need time to get all the documents together,  but there is something going on down at the Pier.  Either that or aliens have landed and they are hiding in that bright orange container parked on the Pier.

The contents of that container is the beginning of the construction of what the city is euphemistically calling  phase two of the Pier development.  Phase 1 was a total bust but Phase 2 has gotten off to a great start.

With the contract price for the completion of the Pier fully understood by everyone and the schedule in place, it was time to move on to other issues.  But before your Council could do that Ward 1 Councillor Meed Ward wanted to know more about the sub-contractor that Graham Infrastructure was planning on working with.  The question several people had when the council meeting adjourned was: Who cares ?    Graham Infrastructure is the company the city has contracted with and who they use to work with them is entirely up to them but Meed Ward said she had researched the Joint Venture partner and couldn’t find very much about them and asked staff to provide more detail and background on the company.

Staff has better things to do with their time.  And the councilor needs to let the contractors get on with their job.  Meed Ward didn’t support the decision to re tender – she felt that something could have been worked out with the original contractor.  When it came time to vote for the project, Meed Ward did support the decision and said at the time she would have “preferred the city go through a different door but that door was now closed so we should move on“.  Indeed – it is time to move on.

What's inside that orange container? The three missing lights? Continers are the first step to getting contruction of phase 2 underway. Will we hear jack hammers soon?

Meed Ward however is sticking with this one.  She somehow managed to get her hands on a copy of the contract with the contractor, which has yet to be signed, and mentioned to her fellow council members how thick the document is.  Some time ago this council decided that it didn`t want to “get too far down into the weeds“ when it came to project oversight.  Going through a contract that has yet to be signed is best done by the folks over at legal.

There is a building level of exasperation on the part of several council members (probably safe to say all council members) over the often unnecessary questions that Meed Ward asks and the requests for information that tie up staff time and for the most part serve no useful purpose.  The member for Ward 2 has been on council long enough to have learned just what the job is and t let staff do their work and allow council meetings to proceed in a more timely manner.

What the folks at legal have been doing however is a concern for Ward 3 councilor John Taylor who wanted to know what the city`s legal strategy is going to be once the case gets into what lawyers call the “discovery phase“ and what the legal costs have been to date.  Council has a right to at least be briefed on the legal strategy (that will be and should be a closed council session) and Taylor pushed a bit to get a commitment from staff as to when council would learn where things stand on the legal side.

We will know what legal is thinking before the end of the year.  Taylor pressed for a specific date and wanted something during the last cycle of council meetings in November – the best he could get was a guarantee that there would be information before Christmas.  We can expect a hefty number when the legal department eventually opens their kimono – expect to experience some heartburn.



Return to the Front page