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May 24, 2019

More ways to increase housing supply

Friday, May 24, 2019 | Published in The Lawyer's Daily 

On May 2, 2019, Steve Clark, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, after six months of intensive discussions with all stakeholders (2,000 submissions, in fact, of which 85 per cent were from the public), came up with a comprehensive revamp to Ontario’s housing policy to create more housing and more affordable housing.

In my previous article I listed four of the 12 proposals that came out of the May 2 announcement. Here are the other eight.

Secondary suites

Substantial planning changes will allow additional residential units for semi-detached and row houses in primary and ancillary buildings. This will allow granny flats, apartments and more housing for those who need it to come on the market.

Support of transit areas

More powers will be given to the minister to use community planning permit systems in areas such as major transit station areas and employment zones to speed development approvals for those areas.

Inclusionary zoning

The very controversial inclusionary zoning rules related to requirements for affordable housing and new developments, will be limited to high growth areas and transit or high-density developments.

Community benefits authority

The horse trading of Ontario's Planning Act s. 37 benefits, the soft costs in development costs such as libraries, day care facilities and community benefits and the very controversial calculation for parkland dedication fees (in part), are all going to be grouped under the same fund to be managed by a community benefits authority. The details are still not available regarding the calculations, but what it will do is provide certainty and clarity as to cost for the development industry to be paid for by the ultimate consumer. Currently, every municipality has a range of cost for parkland dedication fees. For s. 37 charges for upzoning, it is the “Wild West” where the local councillor can hold developers to ransom, as there are no legislative guidelines.

Moreover, the benefits will go into a fund that will be used for community benefits. Currently, there are substantial amounts in the City of Toronto, s. 37 fund for instance, that have not been used for community benefits or have been used for general tax purposes. This misuse of community funds will now stop.

Educational development charges

Again, various educational authorities are in the midst of reviewing and increasing the Education Development Charges to support new schools. For the next five years, the charges will be limited to modest increases of five per cent per year or $300 per unit as the government examines the requirements for all of the various school boards.

Ontario Heritage Act

The Ontario Heritage Act was expanded under the Liberal rule, and the appeal rights limited disturbing the balance between preserving true cultural heritage buildings vs. allowing municipalities to run roughshod over development. The redevelopment of the Glen Abbey Golf Course and its outrageous designation as a cultural heritage site is the most glaring example. Changes will be made to the Ontario Heritage Act to provide appropriate protection for true cultural heritage sites but allow appeals to determine the appropriateness of the designations.

Environmental legislation

The Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act will undergo changes to streamline the approvals process while ensuring that proper environmental standards are maintained. There is tremendous duplication in the never-ending environmental assessment review process and the focus will be to speed up the approval process for low-risk properties.

Growth plan changes

The growth plan, while commendable in its intension to limit sprawl, with its most recent aggressive amendments have created density targets for many municipalities that are currently unachievable. They also simply raise the price of developable land and make landowners rich and homebuyers either poor or keep them out of the market. Growth plan targets for various municipalities will be reduced to allow for greater choice of housing in those areas. Not everyone wants to live in a 550-square-foot box on the 30th floor.

The province has released further details which I will report on in the near future.

There is still much work to be done to implement many of these proposals and there will be further consultation with all stakeholders to ensure that the results benefit the ultimate homebuyer or renter. If supply is increased, development time reduced and costs managed and contained, more supply will be available faster at more affordable prices while protecting the Greenbelt and applying sound planning principles.

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one here.

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