On May 5, 2016, the Ontario government amended the rules that
govern the sale of surplus properties by school boards. The new
rules allow for the exploration of the property as a community hub
or other public use, while continuing to ensure that the school
board receives good economic value for the property.
Declining public school enrollment has created an expensive
surplus of space which school boards must sell or otherwise find
uses for. For example, an independent review of the Toronto District School Board,
submitted to the Minister of Education on January 15, 2015, found
that 131 of the Board's 585 schools were operating at 59%
capacity or lower. According to the review, the Board faces a
renewal backlog of about $3 billion, and lacks funding to address
At the same time, as we explored in BLG's April 22, 2016
Introduction to Ontario's Community Hubs Strategic Framework
and Action Plan", the Ontario government has expressed a
new dedication to fostering community hubs as a key element of the
cost-efficient and effective delivery of services to Ontario's
diverse communities. It is not surprising, therefore, that surplus
schools (whether all or part of the building) are often seen as an
ideal location for community hubs.
As we noted in our previous Bulletin, Infrastructure Ontario
permits the sale of surplus government properties to not-for-profit
organizations at "market value" prior to the property
being placed on the open market for sale. However, public
organizations felt that the timeframe for this "pre-sale"
was too restrictive and that requiring payment of market value did
not account for the economic and social value of repurposing assets
for the public good.
On May 5, 2016, O. Reg. 444/98 was amended in response to
recommendations in the Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic
Framework and Action Plan report. These amendments are
expected to come into effect on September 1, 2016.
The first key amendment extends the circulation timelines.
Organizations that submit an "expression of interest"
within 90 days of receiving notification of sale or lease of
surplus property now have an additional 90 days to submit a formal
The second key amendment expands and reprioritizes the list of
public organizations entitled to receive notification of surplus
school property sale or lease. According to the Ministry of
Education, the prioritized list is now as follows (with public
entities newly added to the circulation list in italics):
Coterminous school boards;
Agencies accommodating Section 23
District Social Services
Administration Boards (DSSABs) or Consolidated Municipal Service
Children's mental health lead
Local Health Integration Networks
Public health boards;
Provincial government (The Crown in
Right of Ontario);
Local service boards;
First Nation and Métis
the Federal government.
Although the current round of amendments do not adopt the
Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action
Plan recommendation that an exemption to the fair market value
requirement be made available where a viable community hub plan is
presented for a surplus school property that cannot sustain fair
market value, the government's objective is that the
circulation timeline extension will give community agencies
additional time to develop workable funding plans.
These amendments will be relevant not only to school boards and
organizations looking to create community hubs, but also to private
sector players who are interested in redeveloping school board
property or, even more interestingly, are interested in creating a
mixed-use development that incorporates space for public benefit.
BLG has particular expertise with the issues associated with these
types of developments (e.g. think about property tax issues!) and
in light of these amendments, as well as the Ministry of
Education's announcement on May 6, 2016 of almost $90 million
in funding to expand community space, child and family programs and
child care in schools, we look forward to working with our clients
on some exciting new projects.
The Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that courts will generally support and uphold decisions of condominium directors because they are better positioned than judges to make decisions pertaining to their buildings.
According to the city bylaws in Calgary, the grading of lots for new buildings must be done properly so that the water never flows toward the new building or any other nearby properties, but away from those buildings.
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