Ontario housing bill takes aim at city planning rules to tackle shortage

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

The More Homes for Everyone Act is built on recommendations from the Housing Affordability Task Force and the recent Provincial-Municipal Housing Summit, includes short term solutions and long-term commitments that the government says will provide more attainable housing options.

“Ontario is the best place to live, start a business and raise a family, but we can only build on our success if all hardworking Ontarians and their families are able to find the home they need and want,”  Premier Doug Ford said in late March in announcing the legislation. “As Ontario’s population and our economy continue to grow, building more homes is another way that we’re keeping costs down for families across the province.”

Under the new legislation, municipalities would be able to use a new Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator tool to speed up approvals for the creation of non-profit housing, community centres, hospitals, long-term care homes or other similar projects.

However, city councils must submit a request to the housing minister explaining why they want to approve the project, what approvals they need and how the public has been consulted. In turn, the minister will be able to impose conditions on the project. The accelerator can’t be used for development in the Greenbelt land.

The bill also contains measures to streamline subdivision and site plan approval processes, which deal with elements such as walkways and parking, as well as approvals for modular multi-unit residential buildings.

Municipalities would also have to refund zoning by-law amendment fees after Jan. 1, 2023 if they don’t make a decision within legislated timelines.

The province says it is also putting $19 million over three years toward reducing backlogs at the Ontario Land Tribunal and Landlord and Tenant Board.

Highlights of the plan:

  • Increasing the non-resident speculation tax rate to 20 per cent, expanding the tax beyond the Greater Golden Horseshoe to apply provincewide and closing loopholes to fight tax avoidance, effective March 30, 2022. The tax applies to homes purchased anywhere in Ontario by foreign nationals, foreign corporations or taxable trustees.
  • Working with municipalities to identify and enhance measures that will crack down on land speculation and protect home buyers. This is in response to feedback the province solicited from municipalities regarding projects that are approved by the municipality, but unbuilt by the developer.
  • Strengthening consumer protections for purchasers of new homes by doubling fines and extending building license suspensions to address unethical conduct by developers, while ensuring penalties for cancelled projects are aligned with the impact on homebuyers. The government is also proposing to enable Tarion to extend warranties on unfinished items in a new home.
  • Supporting municipalities with resources, tools and standards to provide timely review and adjudication processes by both extending legislated timelines for decisions while focusing the decision-making process.
  • Creating a new tool specifically designed to accelerate planning processes for municipalities. The Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator would help municipalities expedite approvals for housing and community infrastructure, like hospitals and community centres, with clear requirements for both consultation and public notice. The tool could not be used in the Greenbelt, maintaining the government’s commitment to protecting this valued area.
  • Investing more than $19 million to help the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and the Landlord and Tenant Board to reduce their backlogs. This funding will enable the tribunals to appoint new adjudicators, have resources on hand for mediation, and resolve land use planning and tenant and landlord disputes more quickly. This will also allow the OLT to expand their digital offerings to further enhance efficiency and provide more e-services.
  • Conducting consultation on the concept of a multi-generational community, which will begin the process of implementing “missing middle” housing policies that will work to implement gentle density and multi-generational homes on the ground across different types of municipalities.
  • Making it easier to build more community housing by making better use of provincially-owned lands for non-profit housing providers.

Ontario commits to a housing supply action plan every year over four years, starting in 2022-23, with policies and tools that support implementing the recommendations from the housing affordability Task Force’s report.

“Our government’s plan proposes smart, targeted measures to protect consumers, and make the process work better and faster, help more Ontarians find the home that’s right for them and their families,” said Clark. “However, there is no silver bullet to addressing the housing crisis. It requires a long-term strategy with long-term commitment and coordination at all levels of government.”

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