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'Most of the things are not good': More concern raised about latest Ontario housing bill

A University of Waterloo planning expert does not believe Bill 23 would accomplish the goal of increasing housing affordability and supply, and could create unintended consequences
GM March 13 2021

More concern is being raised about the province's new housing legislation.

Bill 23, the 'More Homes Built Faster Act' was introduced on the past Tuesday and proposes sweeping changes to housing regulations, aimed at building 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

"There's one or two things that are good. Most of the things are not good. They might create perverse incentives and unintended consequences," said Dawn Parker, a professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo.

She doesn't believe the legislation would accomplish its goal of increasing affordability and housing supply--- and she isn't alone. 

Parker said her colleague described the bill as "a wholesale dismantling of 50 years of planning history in the province."

One area of concern is that the bill removes the planning process and takes away residents' ability to appeal developments.

"It won't create a good public realm, which all levels of government have the responsibility to protect. It's not going to create agency for citizens, where they having co-developed their city, seeing their vision played out---they have a sense of ownership and belonging in their cities. When you take that away from them, why should they stay?" Parker asked.

Kitchener councillor Scott Davey also took to social media to express concern about the Ford government's legislation, questioning whether it would make the recently approved regional growth plan moot.

An aspect Parker takes issue with is the reduced requirements around municipal parks. 

She said research shows, people need high quality green space in order to give single-family homes.

"Humans know how to build very dense developments with small dwelling units with no green space. They're called prisons. Let's not incentivize those kinds of builds in our downtowns, or we're going to lose the very people we're trying to attract," she said.

The bill also contains changes to the powers of conservation authorities in the development process, which Parker worries about because land conservation means preserving land and wetlands for flood control.

Another issue she finds, is that the bill does not address some existing problems.

"This legislation is targeted at marginally increasing the profitability of the kinds of developments we've already seen and that's because they're grinding to a halt---combination of high construction costs, interest rates, decreasing demand for units have stalled developments," she said. 

Among what Parker suggests are: use of parking lots; nonprofit financing to help developers that have a social and environment conscience to do affordable housing; and "a real vacant unit tax."

"The most important thing that I was hoping the province would do that they didn't do, is allow municipalities to require inclusionary zoning, requiring affordable units across the municipality," she said.

Parker explained that means that developers would not be able to avoid building within land with affordable housing requirements. 

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