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Ontario government introduces bill meant to increase housing supply

The bill contains measures to streamline subdivision approval processes, as well as site plan approval processes
New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Ontario's housing minister is set to introduce legislation Wednesday aimed at increasing the province's housing supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ontario's housing minister has introduced legislation to streamline approval processes in a bid to boost the province's housing supply.

It comes after a housing affordability task force convened by the government released a report last month offering 55 recommendations, including a goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.

Government officials say the task force report gives them a long-term road map, but many of the recommendations are not addressed in today's legislation, including changing municipal zoning rules to allow more housing to be built aside from single-family homes.

The government is now launching new consultations on increasing "missing middle" housing including supports for multi-generational housing, access to financing for not-for-profit developers and the housing needs of rural and northern communities.

The bill contains measures to streamline subdivision approval processes, site plan approval processes, which deal with elements such as walkways and parking, and 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 is also putting $19 million over three years toward reducing backlogs at the Ontario Land Tribunal and Landlord and Tenant Board.

Ontario announced Tuesday it is increasing a tax on non-resident homebuyers from 15 to 20 per cent and is broadening it to the entire province instead of just the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Those changes took effect Wednesday.

House prices in Ontario have nearly tripled in the last 10 years, far outpacing income growth, the task force report said, but the province is 1.2 million homes — both rental and owned — short of the G7 average.

Businesses and public services are having trouble recruiting and retaining workers because of a scarcity of nearby housing, which is harming the economy, while long commutes are contributing to air pollution, the report said.

Many of the task force report's recommendations suggested ways to limit how development can be stifled by local opposition to neighbourhood growth and change.

Those recommendations included eliminating municipal policies that prioritize preserving “neighbourhood character,” exempting projects of 10 units or fewer from public consultation when they only need minor variances, limiting municipalities from hosting consultations beyond what is required in the Planning Act, and banning heritage designations that are made only after a development application is filed.

Municipal zoning rules also need to be changed to allow more homes to be built, the report said. It's estimated that 70 per cent of the residential land in Toronto is restricted to single-detached or semi-detached homes.

The province allowed secondary suites starting in 2019, but municipalities are still restricting their use — the total number of secondary suites has actually declined for the past three years, the report said.

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