Canadian Contractor

Patrick Flannery   

Industry reaction to Ontario More Homes Built Faster Act

Canadian 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.

Read the government background here.

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.

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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.

 

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2 Comments » for Industry reaction to Ontario More Homes Built Faster Act
  1. Nick says:

    Tenancy Law need to change in Ontario. How its ONLY favouring tenants only. The Bad tenants walk away with lots of over due rent and damage the property when kicked out. The eviction process of default tenant need to be prompt and easy. The concerned Federal ministers, the provincial ministers, the municipality, the councillors all need to address and CHANGE the current stupid law which ONLY Favours default tenants. If law becomes neutral then lots of un rented properties will come in market.

  2. Ben Polley says:

    The OHBA’s enthusiasm for destructive Bill 23 cements my resolve to not join their membership.

    Why does the public-at-large often take a dim view of developers and builders? The OHBA’s 1950’s era position – whereby all paving over of paradise is deemed “progress” – is a good place to start.

    The OHBA promotes this Bill together with the intended changes to the Conservation Authorities Act – and the resulting robbing of protections and public lands – in the purported name of public service, when they are so transparently in the primary service of a handful of wealthy investors, revealed further as donors to Ford’s Conservatives.
    Worse still, some of these few wealthy beneficiaries appear to have been provided an “inside scoop” given their recent purchase of long-protected properties, now suddenly ripped from the Green Belt and instantly greenlighted for construction. This smacks of corruption. Gleeful support of apparent graft destroys the character of the OHBA and diminishes the public view of the industry.

    Then there is the regular drum beat that regulations add to the builders’ cost and therefore are “bad.” The OHBA’s celebration of the Bills’ vast destruction of 50+ years of regulatory controls is disturbing. Protections for public goods such as the Green Belt, and extending too into other parklands, conservation areas, floodplains, now too into heritage buildings, healthy green standards, energy efficiency requirements, among other tools for community resilience, health and wealth, again all play perfectly into the stereotype of the evil developer.

    Yet at the level of the local Builders Association chapters, there are so many well-intentioned, community-minded, family-owned, honest, hard working, real estate professionals, suppliers, subcontractors, custom builders, renovators and small- to mid-sized builders. I will hazard a guess that these form the majority of dues-paying members.

    Do these people support opening up the Green Belt? Do they actually desire the forcible turn over of Conservation Authorities’ public parkland to for-profit, private development? Do they really want to participate in a race to the bottom with the least efficient, least resilient and comfortable home that is permitted to be constructed? Do they – or does anyone for that matter – want to subsidize new sprawling suburban developments through our taxes, as will be absolutely necessary to offset the forced constriction of municipal development charges? And all of this I ask before there is even a single mention by OHBA or the Conservatives regarding the most critical, existential threat ever faced by humankind: the Climate Crisis.

    I will hazard another guess in response to the above questions: a collective “no.” This is neither the industry nor the world in which I expect these good people – the general membership of the OHBA – wish to live.

    For my part, I would be particularly galled if my membership fees further enriched a small handful of multi-millionaires in my name. I would be even more chagrined if an organization claiming to act on my behalf, instead so routinely demonstrated itself to be at direct opposition with my personal and professional values.

    As one of the largest sectoral contributors to greenhouse gasses and as the only industry that can house our population, we have a special responsibility – and an opportunity – to provide meaningful solutions to both the housing crunch and climate crisis at once.

    These Conservative government’s Acts will do precious little to help with housing while simultaneously doing irreversible harm to the environment and the fight to protect us from the worst of climate change. The OHBA must reconsider its purpose and who it serves. When meaningful progress toward being a true force for good is made, let me reconsider membership.

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