The Provincial government announced on Oct. 25 new legislation introduced that day by Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), the Hon. Steve Clark, to address the housing crisis in Ontario. The Ontario media release and more details on the plan are provided further down this post, including a complete list of the proposed changes outlined in the legislation and a slide deck presentation from the Province’s technical briefing on Oct. 25.
Also, scroll further down for responses from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Board and the Ontario’s Big City Mayors (OBCM) caucus.
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The Province’s plan to address the housing crisis shows some promise, and in fact we’re already implementing or considering some of the suggested changes. For example, we already allow accessory dwellings that would allow up to two units per lot (the province’s plan proposes a total of three), and as part of our Housing Strategy and reviewing development charges (DCs) credits for affordable housing units.
The government has assigned 29,000 units to the City of Burlington by 2032 in its new provincial housing legislation (page 4 of the MMAH technical briefing) — based on recent figures from City staff on residential developments as of June 2022, we already have 21,700 units in the pipeline.
With that said, however, I’m very concerned about the proposal to shift growth costs from developers to taxpayers. This signals a major change in the philosophy that growth should pay for growth.
We also need more clarity and details around the Ministry’s consultations with municipalities.
Their role is to set population and housing targets and we are best positioned at the municipal level is to determine how those targets are met on the ground.
The City of Burlington already has a plan to accommodate our share of growth, and shift the highest density where most appropriate – for example near our three GO Station transportation hubs — without compromising established neighbourhoods.
We’ve always been here to partner with the Province to meet the challenges of affordable housing and will continue to do so, and look forward to robust and mutually beneficial discussions to that end.
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Ontario’s Big City Mayors Response
The Ontario’s Big City Mayors caucus, in a statement released today (Oct. 27), has said we welcome the new legislation but want the public comment period on regulatory changes extended to enable further discussions.
“There are some very positive things in here, and there are some items that will require further review, such as the impact of removing development charges.” — OBCM Chair and Mayor of Guelph Cam Guthrie
OBCM looks forward to further discussions with Minister Clark and his colleagues on these matters before legislation is passed.
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Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Board Response
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has described the changes outlined in the new legislation as seeming “punitive in nature – at a time where staffing shortages of planners, building officials, and skilled labour are a key factor beyond the control of municipal governments.” In AMO’s view, the proposed changes to municipal development charges, parkland dedication levies, and community benefits charges may contradict the goal of building more housing in the long-term. Unless fully offset by funding to support growth-related projects, reductions in these fees will shift the financial burden of growth-related infrastructure onto existing municipal taxpayers.
“Municipalities will welcome some of the proposed changes, and will be very concerned about others, such as changes to the Development Charges Act. We will work with the government on the ideas that have the potential to make housing more affordable, and we will oppose changes that undermine good economic and environmental policy.” — Colin Best, AMO President & Milton Town and Regional Councillor
AMO News Release (Oct. 25, 2022) — Ontario’s New Housing Supply Action Plan: Some Troubling Features
- Proposed changes include discounting and, in some cases, eliminating development charges and related developer obligations. When communities grow, infrastructure and public services must be scaled up to meet new demands. The new legislation would shift some of those costs from developers to current property taxpayers.
- The Ontario government has signaled it may offset some of the financial impacts for municipalities. However, shifting growth costs from developers to taxpayers represents a fundamental change from the principle that growth should pay for growth, and that current homeowners and renters should not be required to subsidize new development. There are no mechanisms to ensure that developers will pass on cost savings to consumers in need of more affordable housing options.
- For years, municipalities have been sounding the alarm about housing affordability and homelessness. Municipal governments deliver many of the front-line services that respond to these complicated and difficult challenges. Municipalities are committed to doing what they can to make housing more affordable, and to support economic growth.
- Ontario had 100,000 housing starts in 2021, the highest in 30 years. However, some municipalities have seen a sharp decline in permit applications in 2022, due to factors such as higher interest rates and labour shortages.
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- Today, the Ontario government introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, which takes bold action to advance the province’s plan to address the housing crisis by building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. The proposals in the More Homes Built Faster Act would, if passed, ensure that cities, towns and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all Ontarians, from single family homes to townhomes and mid-rise apartments.
- The plan puts in place actions to support the development of “gentle density” – housing like triplexes or garden suites – that bridge the gap between single family homes and high-rise apartments. For example, it would remove exclusionary zoning, which allows for only one single detached home per lot. Instead, it would allow property owners to build three units without lengthy approvals and development charges.
- The plan, which contains around 50 actions, addresses the housing crisis by reducing government fees and fixing developmental approval delays that slow down housing construction and increase costs. Actions in the plan include:
- Creating a new attainable housing program to drive the development of housing. Sites across all regions of Ontario will be considered, including those in the north, central, east and southwest regions.
- Increasing the Non-Resident Speculation Tax rate from 20 per cent to 25 per cent to deter non-resident investors from speculating on the province’s housing market and help make home ownership more attainable for Ontario residents.
- Municipal housing targets – asking 29 of Ontario’s largest and fastest-growing municipalities to pledge to address that gap over the next 10 years. These pledges are in addition to existing, longer-term targets in municipal land use plans and will help kick start development by highlighting the need for municipal infrastructure, like roads and sewers. Burlington is expected to build 29,000 units by 2032.
- Freezing and reducing government charges to spur new home construction and reduce the costs of housing. Ontario is proposing changes to the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act and the Conservation Authorities Act to freeze, reduce, and exempt fees to spur the supply of new home construction and help address Ontario’s housing supply crisis. This includes ensuring affordable, and inclusionary zoning units, select attainable housing units, as well as non-profit housing developments, are exempt from municipal development charges, parkland dedication levies, and community benefits charges. Rental construction would also have reduced development charges and conservation authority fees for development permits and proposals would be temporarily frozen.
- Streamlining Bureaucratic Processes to Get More Homes Built Faster- Proposed changes to the Planning Act would remove site plan control requirements for most projects with fewer than 10 residential units (with limited exceptions). For larger projects, approvals will focus site plan reviews on health and safety issues, like flood-plain management, rather than architectural or decorative landscape details.
- Proposed legislative changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act would help speed up proceedings, resolve cases more efficiently and streamline processes – prioritizing cases that create the most housing, establishing service standards (i.e. timelines for completing specific stages of a case), clarifying the OLT’s powers to dismiss appeals due to unreasonable delay or failure to comply with a tribunal order
- Ontario is calling on the federal government to come to the table and work with us on potential GST/HST incentives, including rebates, exemptions and deferrals, to support new ownership and rental housing development.
- Building more density near transit, unlocking innovative approaches to design and construction, and removing red tape to get shovels in the ground faster.
- Proposing to focus responsibility for land use policies and approvals in the local, lower-tier municipality. This would give the public more influence over decisions, clarify responsibilities and improve efficiency.
- Proposing the removal of the two-year freeze on amendments to new official plans, secondary plans and zoning by-laws for aggregate applications. The freeze would continue to apply to non-aggregate applications.
- Increasing consumer protection measures for home buyers and consulting on ways to help more renters become homeowners.
- Proposed changes to the Ontario Heritage Act would renew and update Ontario’s heritage policies and strengthen the criteria for heritage designation and update guidelines.
- The government will also consult with the public, stakeholders and municipalities while engaging with Indigenous communities to review provincial housing and land use planning policies to find ways to remove more barriers to getting homes built.
Highlights and Question Period from Minister Clark’s briefing:
- “The solution is clear – we need to build more homes faster.”
- “Need to reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies and red tape.”
- “Actions are bold, working in partnership with municipalities.”
- “We’re past the point of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) we are at BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone)”.
- How will you address the financial impact on municipalities?
- Minister Clark said they want to work with municipalities. Currently municipalities have $8 billion in DC reserves. He is “hopeful and optimistic” that they can work with the federal government to use the federal Housing Accelerator fund to reimburse municipalities for the loss of DCs.
- Giving developers a break could lead to residential property taxes going up.
- “We are hoping to work with municipalities as partners.”
- What happens to municipalities who don’t meet the targets?
- “We are hoping to work collaboratively with municipalities. Everyone has a role to play.” No details on what the collaboration with municipalities will look like. He said he was “hopeful” municipalities would agree to the pledge. He admitted he hadn’t been in contact with all the mayors yet about the pledges.
- Will there be support for municipalities regarding the increased infrastructure needs?
- He said that Minister Mulroney has been working with municipalities on their transit needs. “We believe the long term plan is sustainable for municipalities.” He said that there was consultation on the gentle density items.
- Is it your intent to extend the strong mayor powers to the 29 municipalities on the list?
- His focus is on Toronto and Ottawa right now. He wants to ensure they have the powers they need.
- What percentage of homes will be affordable?
- He said that removing the DCs, parkland dedication and community benefits charges would help. Minister Clark and Surma are developing a plan for building attainable housing on provincial lands.