Bhutila Karpoche MPP/Députée/གྲོས་ཚོགས་འཐུས་མི། Parkdale—High Park

Government of Ontario

Good, bad and ugly. What's in the government's new housing bill?

Published on April 14, 2024

This afternoon, the government made some big housing announcements.

They dropped another housing bill called Bill 185, the Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024, and updated the Provincial Policy Statement.

These are pretty significant developments, and it’s going to take us a few days to process the details and understand how this will impact planning and housing in Ontario.

You can sign up to submit written comment or speak in committee now by going here.

Here’s our initial take:

The government has given us a grab bag of half-measures that fix up some of their more terrible housing mistakes and spur the construction of some new housing, including unwise sprawl. 

It’s not ambitious, or bold, and it doesn’t address affordability. 

Will the government’s new bill make it easier for Ontarians to buy their first home, pay affordable rent, protect them from illegal eviction, or reduce homelessness? No. 

It’s never been more expensive to rent or own a home in Ontario, and this bill isn’t going to change that.

Here’s the details:

Seven regional municipalities, including Halton, York and Peel are losing their power to plan. Simcoe, Durham, Niagara, and Waterloo could lose their ability to plan once this bill is proclaimed. Planning authority remains with local municipalities. I worry this will create a haphazard and chaotic planning process that will make it easier to build development on farmland.  

The province can compel the City of Toronto to assistance directly or indirectly, to a specified manufacturing business or other industrial or commercial enterprise. 

Third party appeals to the Lands Tribunal are banned. Residents will not be able to go to the Lands Tribunal to contest a development, be it a condo or a quarry.    

Makes changes to the Building Code to allowing 18-story mass timber buildings. We support this.

Developers are no longer required to build parking in a development near transit. We're good with this.  

A Use-It-Or-Lose-It law that gives municipalities more power to motivate a developer to build a development once they’ve been given the approvals to do so. 

How is this going to work? The municipality will be given the power to govern the allocation of water supply and sewage infrastructure capacity — or the withdrawal of such an allocation — subject to regulations. If a developer doesn't build, then the municipality could take away their water and infrastructure capacity.  

The municipality will also have the power to set an expiry date for the approval of site plan drawings if the developer does not apply for a building permit, as well as the power to set an expiry date for the approval of a subdivision plan, subject to regulations. 

Puts more guardrails on the controversial Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) process.  With MZOs, the province gave themselves the power to exempt a development from local and provincial planning rules and impose their own planning rules on a project.  

This process has created a two-tiered development approval process where those developers who were friendly to the government got moved to the front of the queue, and everyone else had to wait.

This latest rewrite requires the applicant to explain why this project needs to be exempt from planning rules and how it meets provincial priorities (e.g. building more housing) or get local municipal approval. The government has said they'll post non-urgent MZO requests on the Environmental Registry. 

Eliminates the five-year phase-in period for development charges that was imposed by government Bill 23. Overall, the government’s drastic changes to development charges have put municipalities in a very difficult financial position because they have lost the ability to charge developers for some infrastructure costs, like parkland and affordable housing.

Municipalities are no longer required to refund application fees if they don’t get a development approved within a strict timeframe. The government brought this change in with Bill 109, and it was a disaster because it slowed approvals down.  

These changes to development fees are walk backs from Bill 23, which restricted municipalities ability to charge developer fees, putting them on track to lose a $1B a year in funding for infrastructure. Municipalities are still banned from collecting developer fees for affordable housing. 

Bans municipalities from telling developers to do work before they’re officially submitted a development application. 

Exempts student housing from the Planning Act, giving universities and colleges more freedom to build student housing. Building student housing is essential, but we also want to know what this government is going to do to make student housing affordable.  

Students at the University of Toronto are spending about $2300 a month to live in a dorm room. That’s a lot of money that no parent or student wants to spend[1]. Worryingly, student housing is exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act, which means students don’t have protection from eviction, and they’re not protected by rent control. 

Provide standardized, pre-approved home designs. We like this proposal because it will help Ontario build more homes more quickly.  It will also help Ontario spur the construction of homes built in factories off-site and then shipped to their final location. The BC government is doing it, and so should we.

Enhanced regulatory authority to allow a second or third home on a property by removing barriers that can be thrown up, such as setting a maximum number of bedrooms for the lot, to stop increased density.

Consult on changing the building code to allow three to six story homes to have only one stairwell, instead of two. I think consultation with the goal of ensuring safety is the right way to go.

While reducing one stairwell provides more floorspace for a home, many fire departments have raised concerns about how this will make it harder for someone to quickly exit a home when there’s a fire.  

The new draft Provincial Policy Statement is very worrying. This document guides planning for the province. The PPS wipes out settlement area boundaries and municipal comprehensive review processes so new development on nearby farmland can be approved at any time.

Developers can appeal any municipal refusal to the Lands Tribunal to amend a municipal boundary and approval development on nearby farmland.  There's no appeal, however, of any municipal decision to permit development on nearby farmland.   

In other words, if a municipality approves sprawl you can't appeal. If the municipality denies sprawl, you can appeal. 

More information is available on the Environmental Registry

What’s missing?

No commitment to affordability.

No fourplexes as-of-right.

No rent control or vacancy control to stabilize rents and keep renters housed.

No improvements to the Landlord and Tenant Board to deal with landlord and tenant disputes.

No measures to stop illegal eviction, curb AGI abuse, or compel bad actor landlords to properly maintain their homes.

No plan or increased investment to end or even seriously address homelessness.

No serious plan to build affordable homes or supportive housing.

What we would do

Our goal is to ensure that everyone lives in a home they can afford to rent or buy. There should be no homelessness in a province as rich as ours.

The Official Opposition would bring in measures to build 1.5 million homes in towns and cities to help address the housing supply shortage.

We would establish a housing agency called Homes Ontario that will provide land, financing, and funding to build and buy affordable housing and non-profit housing. 

We would help renters by bringing in strong rent control and renter protection measures.