22 April 2024

Continuing To Cut Through The Red Tape – Ontario's Bill 185: Cutting Red Tape To Build More Homes Act, 2024



On April 10, 2024, the Ontario government once again launched legislative changes aimed at its goal of building at least 1.5 million homes in the province by 2031 through Bill 185...
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On April 10, 2024, the Ontario government once again launched legislative changes aimed at its goal of building at least 1.5 million homes in the province by 2031 through Bill 185: Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024. In line with recent changes such as Bill 162: Get It Done Act, 2024 (which Dentons recently provided an overview of in Ontario's Get It Done Act, 2024 and Bill 162 – A strong message?), these new changes are also focused on streamlining approvals and increasing housing and infrastructure development across the province.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister of Legislative Affairs, Paul Calandra, noted that "[t]hese measures recognize the struggles that our municipal partners have faced in building homes and are targeted at removing those obstacles." In addition, Minister Calandra indicated that this approach is aimed at enabling municipalities to make decisions at the local level by providing the funding and tools municipalities need, rather than dictating a one-size-fits all approach. In its news release, the Ontario government highlighted that this is the 13th red tape reduction packages and the 12th red tape reduction bill introduced by the Ontario government since 2018.

This update will focus on the substantive planning, housing and infrastructure-related changes set out in Bill 185: Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024, although it is notable that the Bill also addresses numerous other matters including changes to the Ontario Building Code Act and other legislation.

Key themes raised by the Province in Bill 185 include:

  • Building homes faster and at lower cost.
  • Prioritizing infrastructure for ready-to-go housing projects with a new "use it or lose it" process to address stalled development.
  • Improving consultation and providing municipalities and builders with greater certainty to get homes built faster, including by limiting third-party appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
  • Building more types of homes for more people by streamlining approvals for student housing, supporting standardized designs to reduce delays and costs, including for modular homes, and supporting innovative construction methods such as mass timber.

Provincial Planning Statement, April 2024

The Ontario government has also released an updated draft, Provincial Planning Statement, which is available on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for review and comment until May 10, 2024 (30 days). The updated Provincial Planning Statement focuses planning processes on housing outcomes and provides a province-wide framework that they hope will make it easier and faster to increase housing supply.

This updated draft comes a year after the government first released a draft of a revised Provincial Planning Statement which was to combine and replace the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 and A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which Dentons reported on in April of last year (see both Spring brings changes to Ontario's land use planning framework – Ontario announces a new Provincial Planning Statement and Dentons - Spring brings changes to Ontario's land use planning framework – Deep Dive on Ontario's proposed Provincial Planning Statement). The updated Provincial Planning Statement follows an extended period of comment in 2023 and reflects feedback on the following categories:

  1. Generating an appropriate housing supply;
  2. Making land available for development;
  3. Providing infrastructure to support development;
  4. Balancing housing with resources; and
  5. Implementation.

Dentons will provide further comment on the revised Provincial Planning Statement at a future time.

Below is an overview of the key changes to municipal, land use planning and development law proposed by the Ontario government in Bill 185 and related government releases for non-legislative matters.

Building homes faster at lower cost

Through Bill 185, the Ontario government seeks to lower costs for homes near transit. For example, it introduces new provisions to the Planning Act which limit the ability of official plans and zoning by-laws to require that an owner provide parking facilities in Protected Major Transit Station Areas and areas around transit stations, effectively letting the market decide the number of parking spaces required near major transit stations.

The Ontario government also aims to remove zoning barriers that discourage owners from building additional residential units, such as provisions dictating maximum lot coverage and the number of bedrooms permitted per unit. The government proposes enhanced regulation-making authority that would allow the Minister to remove zoning barriers for small multi-unit residential developments. Notably, the Community Infrastructure Housing Accelerator,1 previously introduced in Bill 23, is also proposed to be repealed by the new legislation.

The Ontario government has also introduced a new framework for requesting a Minister's Zoning Order. The framework specifies that zoning order requests will be considered if they relate to a provincial priority supported by an Ontario government ministry or are supported by a municipality through a municipal council resolution or a letter from a mayor with strong-mayor powers. Furthermore, the framework requires that zoning order requests include specific information, including the rationale for why the project requires a zoning order rather than going through the standard municipal planning process and a description of the public consultation and Indigenous engagement undertaken.

Prioritizing infrastructure for ready-to-go housing projects

Another key change introduced by Bill 185 are "use it or lose it" policies. These new policies expand the scope of lapsing provisions in the Planning Act for subdivision and site plan control and authorize municipal staff to allocate and track water and sewage servicing capacity under the Municipal Act. As a result of the changes to the lapsing provisions, developments with approved site plans and/or draft plans of subdivision can have their approvals withdrawn if they do not receive building permits within a certain period of time. The applicable time period will be set by regulation. Where no regulation applies, there is a default time period of no less than three years.

Bill 185 also eliminates the mandatory five-year development charge phase-in of increased development charges introduced by Bill 23, reinstates background studies as a development charge eligible capital cost and amends the development charge freeze provisions to reduce the timeframe to obtain a building permit. In addition, it streamlines the extension of existing development charge by-laws to enable municipalities to continue levying development charges.

Improved consultation and greater certainty to get homes built faster

Furthermore, Bill 185 amends the Planning Act to limit third party appeals for official plans, official plan amendments, zoning by-laws and zoning by-law amendments to specified persons, such as the Province and applicants, public bodies, First Nations and utility providers that participated in the process.

Third party appeals filed before the legislation comes into force will be dismissed if the Ontario Land Tribunal Hearing has not yet started. Conversely, the Bill will expand appeal rights by restoring the ability to appeal settlement area boundary expansions, for all lands outside of the Greenbelt Plan area.

In addition, the legislation repeals the fee refund requirements for zoning and site plan applications set out in Bill 109. The Ontario government also plans to make pre-application consultation voluntary at the discretion of the applicant.

The Ontario government also aims to modernize the municipal consultation process. They plan to work with municipalities to develop best practices for consulting with the public (e.g., multilingual media options) and modernize public engagement for planning applications by introducing digital options that increase public awareness and participation. The Province proposes regulatory changes that will enable municipalities to provide notice of new planning applications and community benefits charge by-laws under the Planning Act, or give notice on the municipal website under the Development Charges Act if there if no local newspaper.

Building more types of homes for more people

Bill 185 also amends the Planning Act to implement changes to certain upper tier municipalities "without planning responsibility," a concept first introduced through Bill 23. Specifically, the Regional Municipality of Halton, the Regional Municipality of Peel and the Regional Municipality of York will become upper-tier municipalities without planning responsibilities on July 1, 2024. The County of Simcoe, the Regional Municipality of Durham, the Regional Municipality of Niagara, and the Regional Municipality of Waterloo will become upper-tier municipalities without planning responsibilities at a future time, on dates to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.

Bill 185 also exempts public universities from Planning Act application and the planning provisions under the City of Toronto Act, 2006. Similarly, the bill creates regulation-making authority to exempt standardized housing designs from certain sections of the Planning Act, expediting the planning process for certain designs. The government has also indicated that they plan to engage in consultations regarding an expedited approval process for community service facilities such as school, long-term care homes and hospitals.

In order to incentivize the development of affordable housing in the province, the Ontario government has also announced that the exemptions and discounts from municipal development-related charges for affordable housing units, previously proposed in Bill 134, will come into force on July 1, 2024.

Bill 185 is yet another example of the continuously evolving land use planning and development law space in Ontario. This most recent addition to legislative changes in Ontario highlights that this pattern of changes is likely to continue, as the Ontario government works towards its 2031 housing goal of 1.5 million homes, noting that the news release accompanying Bill 185 stated that Ontario reached 99% of its target of 110,000 new homes in 2023.


1. Bill 23 made changes to the Planning Act to create a minister's order authority known as the "community infrastructure and housing accelerator" tool. This authority gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the power to make orders to respond to municipal requests for expedited zoning outside of the Greenbelt Area.

About Dentons

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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. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

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