Industry reaction to Ontario More Homes Built Faster ActCanadian Contractor affordable regulation zoning
The Ontario government has proposed Bill 23 the More Homes Built Faster Act that introduces many changes to the province’s regulatory regime for new home builds in an effort to stimulate overall building and construction of affordable housing. Marquee elements of the bill include proposals to allow up to three separate residential units per lot zoned for one home; changing rules to make purpose-built rental housing more attractive for developers; freezing, reducing and exempting some fees on affordable housing builds; removing some site plan control requirements for projects with fewer than 10 units; and speeding up and streamlining the Land Tribunal processes.
Reaction from Ontario homebuilder groups has been overwhelmingly positive. From the Niagara Home Builders’ Association:
The Niagara Home Builders’ Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) supports the introduction of the Ontario government’s new, once-in-a-generation housing plan. The More Homes, Built Faster Act will make it easier to build new homes faster, reduce housing costs, cut red tape and enable the construction of the 1.5 million new homes needed in the next decade, ultimately increasing supply and bringing affordability back to the province.
On average, 25% of the cost of a new home is composed of government fees, taxes, and charges. This can add as much as $250,000 to the price of a typical single-family home, and municipalities add more than half of that. Housing approvals take longer in Ontario than in any other jurisdiction in North America. In some municipalities, it can take almost three years to approve new housing projects, which adds a further $50,000 to $100,000 in costs to new homeowners.
The More Home Built Faster Act will help get Ontario back on track towards housing affordability by addressing the core underlying problem, a lack of housing supply. By incentivizing municipalities to meet legislated timelines for new housing approvals, adding more transparency on the municipal fees and charges imposed on new homebuyers and designating more lands for growth, the province is taking the bold action needed to build more homes so that future Ontario families have a better shot at the dream of homeownership.
“The current housing supply and affordability crisis is a man-made problem that was created in the course of a decade and a half and will take time to fix,” said Luca Bucci, CEO of the OHBA. “It starts today with Ontario’s new big, bold housing plan. The More Homes, Built Faster Act increases accountability for municipalities in enabling the construction of housing supply the province needs, increasing transparency on the funds collected on the back of new homes, capping fees to the economic conditions of the day and removing roadblocks to adding gentle density. Put simply; the government has delivered the regulatory framework to enable necessary change.
The measures the province has brought forward will help preserve the competitiveness of Canada’s economic engine and ensure more Ontarians have a better shot at finding a place to call home where they can live, work and play.
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario is similarly effusive:
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) welcomes progressive changes that were announced by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark today to tackle the housing supply crisis and speed up construction of much-needed new stock.
“The More Homes Built Faster Act will reduce bottlenecks, streamline development approvals and increase the pace of residential construction across Ontario,” says RESCON president Richard Lyall. “Specific reforms in the plan, such as changes to development charges, allowing more homes to be built near transit, and updating heritage conservation rules will help move the needle on housing.”
The housing bill was announced at a Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon and is part of the government’s commitment to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade. Premier Doug Ford also attended.
The legislation proposes a suite of new tools to promote development and intensification across the province, such as removing site plan control requirements for projects with less than 10 units, identifying more land for housing, and leveraging MZOs, if needed, to speed approvals and get homes built faster.
RESCON appreciates that the government is taking bold and decisive action to deal with the situation through this and previous pieces of legislation aimed at boosting supply and reducing red tape. These changes are necessary as Canada presently ranks 34th out of 35 OECD countries in the length of time it takes to get a general construction project approved, and 64th out of 190 by the World Bank on construction permitting. The state of our housing supply requires systemic change.
Studies have found that the cost of delays in site plan reviews is $300 to $900 million a year. For each unit in a typical high-density development, each month of delay adds $2,600 to $3,300 in construction costs.
Today’s changes will reduce timelines for development and address many municipal barriers to increasing the supply of housing. It is critical to tear down barriers and boost the supply of housing.
“The steps announced today are the kind of actions that are necessary to deal with the housing crisis. We thank Premier Ford and Minister Clark for having the courage to take action,” says Lyall. “We must pull out all the stops to speed up residential construction because our population is growing, and lack of housing is a critical issue. The residential construction sector is ready to do its part.”
The Ontario Association of Architects is more cautious:
Housing affordability remains one of the biggest challenges in the province, and the provincial government is touting Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, as a tool to ensure cities and towns can grow with a mix of housing typologies to meet the diverse needs of all Ontarians. In that spirit, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) is now examining the proposed housing legislation in great detail.
Delving deeper into Bill 23, the OAA is also exploring the possibilities of unintended consequences from the proposed legislation. The Association plans to deliver a submission to the provincial government, including further recommendations to protect the public interest with respect to both housing affordability and climate action.
“For more than a decade, we have been calling for thoughtful changes to the planning approval process that would increase our housing supply, but also maintain quality and minimize sprawl into green spaces,” says OAA President Susan Speigel, a Toronto-based architect.
The OAA has long maintained there should be residential intensification in existing built-up areas. This not only lowers costs for new homeowners by leveraging in-place infrastructure, but also offers more opportunities for Ontarians to be in their desired neighbourhood, whether they are multi-generational families, couples or single homeowners, or those aging in place. However, legislation that supports intensification should not come at the expense of existing environmental protections, such as the Toronto Green Standard and other nascent municipal green standards that aim to adopt higher tiers of the new 2020 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB).
Increasing options for housing typologies to include missing-middle options can help mitigate the adverse effects of the built environment encroaching on green spaces throughout Ontario. Through its new five-year strategic plan, the OAA has positioned “Climate Action” as an important overriding theme. Members of Ontario’s architecture profession have demonstrated that achieving zero emission and low-carbon buildings are excellent investments that guarantee future energy savings, assist with long-term electrical system demand reduction and management, and can be capital cost neutral. New homes must take climate action into account.
In 2018, the OAA commissioned a housing affordability study from SvN Architects + Planners Inc. This study found that increasing density, optimizing zoning potential, and matching municipal density targets to those set out in the 2017 Provincial Growth Plan positions the province to meet the housing demand of 1.5 million people in Ontario’s cities over the next 25 years.