Thunder Bay's mayor wants to build over 2,000 homes in 3 years but needs $46M from Ottawa to do it

Thunder Bay has exceeded its target for new housing starts in 2023, and now officials are making their case for nearly $46 million from the federal government to build thousands of new homes over the next three years. 

Mayor Ken Boshcoff told reporters Friday there were 167 units under construction as of Oct. 26, passing the Ontario government’s assigned target of 161 for the year. The city has also issued 290 construction permits for the year, double the five-year average. 

The next step, Boshcoff said, is for Ottawa to approve the city’s application for $46 million out of the federal government’s $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund.

“They’re looking for capacity, willingness and certainly accommodation to be able to address federal needs in terms of housing and ensure we can take care of these people,” Boshcoff said. 

Thunder Bay’s proposal asks for $45.6 million to build 2,113 units over the next three years, nearly 1,600 more than if the money is not spent. That includes 475 affordable housing units and 405 units of “missing middle” housing. 

“This city is going to provide the total amplitude of need for people, for the type of housing that they want,” he said. 

Boshcoff has long maintained the city’s need for housing is great and may be higher than what statistics suggest. 

These homes are desperately needed to fill current demands, and prepare for an expected influx of mining and related economic activity in the coming years, he said. 

The city is also in the midst of a homelessness crisis, with outreach organizations estimating the number of people staying in encampments tripled this summer compared to 2022.