Policy Brief: Barrie's Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP)

Barrie’s CIP is a key policy supporting its goal of ensuring that 15 to 20% of all new housing units are affordable.


Barrie is engaging in public consultation on its Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP), which is meant to support its goal of ensuring 15 – 20% of all new housing is affordable.

The CIP using a combination of incentives to stimulate development of desired housing outcomes, including grants and loans.

Details of the plan are available here.

For those wishing to participate, key dates, also noted on the City’s website here, are:

  • May 8th Public Meeting
  • May 29th General Committee Meeting
  • June 5th Council Meeting

Environmental Considerations

Sustainability and Energy Efficiency: The plan encourages developments that exceed minimum energy efficiency standards and incorporate high-quality urban design. High-quality urban design is characterized as projects that provide “a mix of uses on site or within the building, or provide additional on site amenities such as childcare facilities and community amenities”.

The prioritization of such projects is good, but the value of prioritization depends on demand, which intersects with a number of variables somewhat beyond the control of the municipality, including the housing market and the perceived demand/benefit to developers in building such projects.

Density and Land Use: The CIP supports medium and high-density housing, which can be more energy-efficient than low-density alternatives and better supports public transit, reducing per capita greenhouse gas emissions. However, the document could benefit from explicit incentives or requirements for integrating green infrastructure or renewable energy technologies into new developments.


Integrate Green Building Standards: Incorporate mandatory green building certifications (such as LEED, including specifically LEED ND, Passive House, or a similar standard) for all new developments seeking CIP incentives. This would ensure energy efficiency and sustainability are built into the core of new housing projects. This would also help establish quantification for potential carbon credits realization.

Promote Renewable Energy: Offer additional incentives for developments that integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or geothermal systems, which can reduce long-term energy costs and environmental impact.


  • Toronto: West Don Lands: This neighbourhood is a notable example of LEED ND certification in Toronto. The development was designed with a focus on sustainability, featuring green roofs, energy-efficient buildings, and extensive stormwater management systems. It’s part of the Waterfront Toronto initiative, which aims to revitalize the city’s waterfront with sustainable urban neighbourhoods.
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: Southeast False Creek (Olympic Village): This development is one of the most well-known LEED ND Gold-certified communities in Canada. Originally constructed for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the area serves as a model for sustainable living with energy-efficient buildings, a neighbourhood energy system, and comprehensive recycling and composting programs.

Green building standards not only help reduce the environmental impact, but also often result in long-term cost savings for residents and businesses, helping to address affordability in the long-run.

  • Toronto: The City of Toronto has implemented the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP), which offers low-interest loans to homeowners who wish to improve energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy technologies in their homes. Additionally, the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) incentivizes developers to exceed provincial building standards, including the use of renewable energy systems, by offering development charge rebates.
  • Guelph: The Guelph Energy Efficiency Retrofit Strategy (GEERS) is a plan to help homeowners finance residential energy upgrades through property-assessed payments. While primarily focused on energy efficiency, the program supports the inclusion of renewable energy installations like solar panels.
  • Ottawa: Ottawa offers a Green Home Program that provides financing to homeowners who are looking to make energy-efficient upgrades or install renewable energy systems. The city facilitates this through a Local Improvement Charge (LIC) that is tied to the property, not the owner, encouraging long-term investments in renewable energy.
  • Mississauga: As part of the Living Green Master Plan, Mississauga has explored incentives for sustainable development, including promoting renewable energy sources. The city encourages green roofs, solar energy, and sustainable building practices through various planning and building incentives.
  • Hamilton: Through its Sustainable Hamilton initiative, the city promotes various environmental sustainability programs, including incentives for energy audits, retrofits, and the installation of renewable energy systems. The city works closely with utilities and non-profit organizations to facilitate these programs.


Financial Incentives: The CIP outlines various financial incentive programs, like the Per Door Grant and the Tax Increment Equivalent Grant (TIEG), which aim to increase the affordability of housing. These incentives are crucial for enabling the development of affordable housing units, which supports economic diversity within communities.

Affordability Duration: The requirement for affordable units to remain affordable for a minimum of 25 years is a strong point, ensuring long-term benefits. However, longer durations or permanent affordability could further strengthen community stability and housing security.


Long-Term Affordability: Increase the minimum affordability duration from 25 years to perpetuity or a significantly longer term. This can be structured through land trusts, long-term affordability covenants, or other legal mechanisms to ensure that housing remains affordable for future generations.

Inclusive Housing Models: Encourage the development of cooperative housing and other inclusive housing models which can provide more stable housing options and foster community among residents.


  • Toronto: The City of Toronto has been involved in various initiatives to promote long-term affordability. One of the significant tools is the use of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), which manages a large portfolio of social and affordable housing that is intended to remain affordable in perpetuity. Toronto also explores land trust models, especially for community land trusts that can maintain affordable housing indefinitely.
  • Hamilton: The City of Hamilton has been proactive in using tools such as municipal housing facility agreements that require affordability for a minimum of 20 years and often up to 25 years or more. Additionally, Hamilton has supported the development of affordable housing through its municipal non-profit corporation, CityHousing Hamilton, which provides long-term affordable housing.
  • Ottawa: Ottawa has implemented a variety of programs and policies to ensure long-term housing affordability. The city has worked through the Ottawa Community Land Development Corporation to develop affordable housing projects that remain affordable through long-term covenants and agreements.
  • Waterloo: The Region of Waterloo has utilized inclusionary zoning policies and land leases to maintain long-term affordability. These methods often tie affordable housing units to perpetual affordability or extend for durations that significantly exceed typical 20-25 year terms.
  • Kingston: Kingston has explored affordable housing policies that include long-term affordability mechanisms, such as long-term leases and restrictions that are placed on the properties to ensure they remain affordable housing assets for extended periods.


Proximity to Amenities and Transit: The plan emphasizes development near transit facilities and community amenities, which is excellent for promoting walkability. This approach supports a reduced reliance on automobiles, contributing to lower traffic congestion and pollution.

Mixed-Use Developments: Encouraging mixed-use developments can enhance walkability by colocating residential, commercial, and recreational spaces, which minimizes the need for long commutes.


Pedestrian-Oriented Design: Require developments in the CIP to follow stringent pedestrian-oriented design principles, such as safe, well-lit sidewalks, pedestrian plazas, and other public spaces that encourage walking and reduce automobile dependency.

Diverse Mixed-Use Requirements: Set specific requirements for the percentage of commercial, recreational, and community service spaces in mixed-use developments to ensure that these are genuinely mixed and serve the local community’s needs.


  • Toronto: The City of Toronto’s Avenue and Mid-Rise Building Study encourages mixed-use developments along designated avenues. The guidelines suggest incorporating ground-floor retail and service uses in new mid-rise buildings, enhancing street-level activity and providing necessary services to residents and the community.
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: While not in Ontario, Vancouver’s Northeast False Creek Plan sets precise requirements for mixed-use developments, including the allotment of space for commercial, cultural, recreational, and community uses. This plan aims to create a vibrant, multi-use community hub that supports a high quality of life for its residents.
  • Mississauga: In its Downtown21 Master Plan, Mississauga outlines the transformation of the city centre into a vibrant, mixed-use area. The plan mandates a mix of commercial, residential, and open space uses to ensure the downtown serves as a dynamic urban centre.
  • Ottawa: The City of Ottawa’s Community Design Plans often include guidelines for mixed-use development that emphasize the inclusion of commercial and community service spaces. For instance, the Scott Street Community Design Plan focuses on integrating a mix of uses to support local needs and enhance urban vitality.
  • Kitchener: Kitchener’s Downtown Action and Investment Plan promotes mixed-use development that combines commercial, residential, and recreational uses. The plan aims to create a balanced urban environment with accessible community amenities.

Public Engagement

Consultation Process: The plan is prepared for public consultation, which is indicative of an inclusive approach. However, the robustness of this model would depend significantly on the extent and effectiveness of the outreach. Ensuring that diverse community voices, especially those from underrepresented groups, are heard can strengthen the plan.

Transparency and Accessibility: Making detailed program information and application processes available and easily understandable is crucial for effective public engagement. The plan’s use of an online portal is positive, but additional efforts like community meetings, workshops, and printed materials could enhance accessibility.


Diverse Engagement Strategies: Utilize a variety of engagement strategies tailored to different community groups. In addition to the online portal and public meeting, utilize focus groups, and printed materials distributed through community centres and local businesses.

Continuous Feedback Loop: Establish a continuous feedback mechanism where residents can provide ongoing input into the CIP’s implementation and effectiveness. This could include digital forums and annual community feedback surveys.


  • Toronto, Ontario: The City of Toronto has utilized a variety of engagement strategies for its Feeling Congested?transportation consultation process. This included online platforms, interactive workshops, and public meetings to gather input from a broad range of residents on transportation priorities.
  • Hamilton, Ontario: Hamilton’s Engage Hamilton platform showcases the city’s commitment to diverse engagement strategies. This platform uses online surveys, virtual town halls, and interactive mapping tools to gather community feedback on different city projects, including its long-term waterfront development plans.
  • Calgary, Alberta: Calgary’s myCalgary portal includes features for ongoing public feedback on various urban projects. Residents can provide continuous input, which the city uses to adjust and improve projects as they develop.
  • Ottawa, Ontario: Ottawa uses a combination of Ottawa Insight surveys and interactive tools on its Engage Ottawa platform to maintain a continuous feedback loop with residents. This feedback informs the city on the effectiveness of services and projects, including community improvement plans.

Additional Recommendations

Ensure Equitable Access to Incentives

  • Transparent Scoring and Selection Criteria: Make scoring and selection criteria for financial incentives completely transparent, and provide workshops or consultations to help potential applicants understand how to maximize their applications’ success.
  • Proactive Outreach: Actively reach out to smaller developers and community groups that might lack the resources to navigate the application process. Offering technical assistance could democratize access to CIP benefits.

Monitor and Adjust Policies Based on Outcomes

  • Robust Monitoring Framework: Develop a robust framework for monitoring and publicly reporting the outcomes of the CIP programs. This should include metrics on economic impacts, environmental benefits, and community feedback.
  • Flexible Policy Adjustments: Ensure there is flexibility in the CIP to make adjustments based on real-world outcomes and emerging community needs. This could include adjusting incentive amounts, eligibility criteria, or program focus areas based on periodic reviews.

Potential Issues

  • Risk of Gentrification: While the plan focuses on increasing housing supply and affordability, there is a potential risk of gentrification if not carefully managed, where rising property values could displace long-time residents.
  • Sufficiency of Incentives: The effectiveness of financial incentives in actually making projects feasible can vary, and the competitive nature of grant applications may mean not all worthy projects receive funding.


Barrie’s CIP is a positive step towards a city where affordable housing is integrated across various developments, promoting social equity and diversity. The focus on both rental and ownership options reflects an interest in, and we hope commitment to, providing a range of housing solutions suitable for different demographics.

By incentivizing the construction of both nonprofit and market/for-profit developments, the plan seems well positioned to support a thriving economy while also addressing housing needs. This dual focus is likely aimed at balancing immediate housing demands with long-term economic stability.

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