Written by Vera Feng
November 3, 2022
Last Tuesday, on October 25th, 2022, Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act with the goal of building 1.5 million Ontario homes in a decade. This blog post will look at significant changes and their possible impact on the affordable housing sector.
To address the enduring housing crisis, the provincial government has adopted an overall strategy of adding units to the housing stock in hopes that increasing the supply will both reduce demand and drive housing prices down. This approach is expressed in the 2019 More Homes, More Choice Act, the spring 2022 More Homes for Everyone Act, the fall 2022 Strong Mayors Building Homes Act, and now the More Homes Built Faster Act. If passed, this most recent iteration (More Homes Built Faster) will make a number of significant changes to municipal zoning and planning regulations, development approvals processes, and heritage and conservation requirements for new housing developments.
Bill 23 would ostensibly reduce the red tape around the planning and development process and bring projects to the construction stage faster than had been possible before. This bill also aims to remove exclusionary zoning (R1 zoning) to facilitate the construction of a wider range of housing types and less single-family homes to encourage “gentle density”. As of October 31st, this piece of legislation has yet to receive the Royal Assent.
DEVELOPMENT APPLICATIONS PROCESSES
To create “gentle density” housing that more accurately meets the diverse needs of Ontarians, proposed legislative changes would over-ride existing municipal zoning by-laws to incentivize builders to fill that gap. One such proposed change will allow up to three residential units per lot without needing a municipal by-law amendment. This could take the form of three units in the primary building (i.e. home) or up to two in the primary building and one in a secondary building (ex: garden suites). These new units would be exempt from development charges and parkland dedication fees. Additionally, proposed changes to the Planning Act would no longer require site plan control approvals for most projects with under 10 residential units.
INCLUSIONARY ZONING REGULATIONS
The legislation is proposing to push municipalities to update their zoning by-laws to meet minimum density targets near transit stations but also to standardize inclusionary zoning (IZ) rules across the province to speed up the approvals process. In some municipalities this will mean IZ rules where they did not exist, but in other municipalities it possibly means less stringent IZ targets. The provincial government is also looking to adjust regulations to reflect a maximum 25-year affordability period, a 5% cap on the number of affordable housing units required from developments in inclusionary zoning areas, and a standardized approach to determining the price or rent of affordable housing units under inclusionary zoning. IZ units would be exempt from DCs and have a cap on parkland dedication requirements.
The Ontario government is proposing a variety of changes to encourage the building of more affordable housing units.
The bill proposes that non-profit housing development and affordable units be exempt from DCs. Housing developments intended to be attainable housing when the units are first sold would be exempt from DCs as well. CBCs for housing development, including affordable and attainable residential units, would factor floor area into the equation within certain limits. Parkland dedication requirements would be limited by a maximum amount to be determined later.
Attainable housing is currently defined in the bill as residential units that are sold to a person who is at arm’s length with the seller but not intended to be affordable (<80% AMR) or rental. The Muskoka Housing Task Force defines attainable housing as “Adequate in condition (no major repairs needed) Appropriate in size (bedrooms appropriate for household) Affordable (costing less than 30% of before-tax income) Accessible to Services (located in areas where common services are available) and Available (a range of housing types)”. Ontario intends to narrow the definition of attainable housing going forward.
The appeals process for municipal decisions with the Ontario Land Tribunal may be limited to the applicant, the municipality, certain public bodies, and the Minister and apply to all Planning Act decisions. Existing appeals by third-party bodies where no hearing date has been set as of October 25th will be dismissed, including cases with scheduled case management conferences or mediation. The provincial government states, “we would also limit third-party appeals (appeals by individuals and groups who are not directly involved in the case, like community groups) for official plan amendments, zoning by-law amendments, minor variances and consents.” While the limitations have yet to be fully defined, this may mean that the general public would not be able to appeal zoning by-law amendment decisions. The bill overall expands the OLT’s ability to dismiss proceedings without a hearing and prioritize the resolution of certain classes of proceedings to increase the efficiency of dispute resolution and aid housing development.
HERITAGE AND CONSERVATION
Under this plan, heritage designation processes may change to accommodate increased housing development and intensification plans. This bill suggests a review of Heritage registers and Heritage Conservation District Plans as well. Ontario is also looking to review the Wetlands Evaluation Systems and develop a program to address development pressures on wetlands.
As a whole, the provincial government is planning to implement a variety of major changes to standardize and lower the cost of the municipal development approvals processes, the zoning and planning regulations, and heritage and conservation requirements, encouraging developers to build more housing and build in a way that better meets housing needs across Ontario.
Since the Ontario government has announced the legislation, Municipalities have since expressed mixed-feelings about the regulatory changes. The Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) expressed that while they are encouraged by the province’s focus on increasing housing supply, changes to municipal development charges, parkland dedication levies, and CBCs may shift the financial burden of the intended housing supply growth on to municipal taxpayers while also limiting public participation in local planning decisions. The Greater Ottawa Home Builder’s Association (GOHBA) and Ontario Home Builder’s Association (OHBA) on the other hand expressed support for the provinces newest plan, characterizing it as both bold and once-in-a-generation.
Cahdco is excited to see how this will make affordable housing projects more feasible. Although this legislation will not directly increase funding to support affordable housing for low-income households owned and operated by non-profits, it should increase the opportunity for development and application timelines. Also, this will standardize IZ and eliminate R1 zoning, both changes will provide more housing for the missing middle. Cahdco will be following this to see if this Bill receives the Royal Assent and how these proposed changes develop in practice over time.
Further resources on the proposed policy changes
Osler (Legal Practice) – Table of policy changes
Association of Municipalities – More Homes Built Faster statement
Greater Ottawa Home Builder’s Association – More Homes Built Faster statement
Ontario government – More Homes Built Faster website
Ontario government – News Release for More Homes Built Faster
Legislative Assembly of Ontario – Full Bill 23: More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022
November 3, 2022