Canada: More Homes, More Choices: Bill 108 And Ontario's Housing Supply Action Plan

Revisions to the Land Use Planning Regime in addition to Purely Housing Related Proposals

On May 2, 2019, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing introduced new legislation under Bill 108, referred to as the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019 (the Bill), aimed at improving affordability by eliminating some of the barriers to creating new housing. The Bill includes amendments to Ontario's Development Charges Act, 1997, Education Act, Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017, and Planning Act (among others), which, if passed, could significantly affect consumers, developers and municipalities.

Ontario's housing supply action plan is intended to address:

  1. Speed: a faster development approvals process;
  2. Cost: more predictability of costs for permits, government approvals and municipal charges;
  3. Mix: encouraging a variety of housing types that may be underrepresented in today's new-build housing market, from detached houses to rental apartments to family-sized condo units;
  4. Rent: protecting tenants and making it easier to build rental housing; and
  5. Innovation: encouraging creativity in designs and materials, ownership structures and more.

The full title of Bill 108 is "An Act to amend various statutes with respect to housing, other development and various other matters". The reference to "other development" makes it clear that the Bill is intended to apply to more than just residential development, although, from a volume perspective, its impact is likely greatest on the housing sector. The Bill will significantly change the manner in which planning decisions can be appealed and ultimately determined by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. Sweeping changes were made in 2017 to the former Ontario Municipal Board and the role it plays in hearing appeals from municipal decisions. The appeal process changed significantly and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal was stripped of its ability, in most cases, to substitute its decision for the decision of the municipality. Bill 108 attempts to restore some elements of the normative approach to land use planning and the role of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

Some highlights of the action plan include:

  • increasing government spending in infrastructure, including roads, transit and recreational facilities;
  • speeding up local planning decisions and the appeals process;
  • making it easier to create additional units above garages, in basements and in laneways;
  • making development charges more predictable upfront and creating alternative payment schedules for certain housing types;
  • reducing the cost to build priority housing types; and
  • making changes to the Building Code to reduce unnecessary costs.

These changes supplement the government's plans already underway to transform the Tarion Warranty framework.

Current legal, regulatory and policy regimes create a lengthy and expensive process for builders and developers, which has driven up costs and contributed to the problem of affordable and accessible housing. It is estimated that it takes about 10 years to complete a development project in Toronto and the GTA, including more than 2 years navigating the approvals process. A more streamlined process with more transparent costs will benefit builders and purchasers alike.

Bill 108 can be read here. The action plan can be read here. We will be releasing a more in-depth review of Bill 108 with respect to both the land use approval aspects of the Bill and the housing supply focused components in the coming weeks.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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David Tang
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