A few weeks ago, More Neighbours Toronto published a press release on the introduction of Bill 23. Our initial opinion on the bill was that it was a step in the right direction but that it was insufficient to solve, or even make a sizable dent in the housing crisis.
However, in light of the amendments to the bill that have since become public we are disappointed that some of the key provisions have been watered down with the ultimate result that less housing will be built, putting the goal of building 1.5 million new homes in 10 years even further out of reach. Amendments that we would have supported - such as bringing back the ability of Toronto to regulate redevelopment of rental properties - have been struck down, while other amendments have reversed provisions we supported in our initial statement like the restriction of third party appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
The Province struck the Housing Affordability Task Force earlier this year, which published a report with 55 recommendations on housing affordability.These centered around the themes of:
- Achieving more housing density across the province
- Ending exclusionary municipal rules that block or delay new housing
- Depoliticizing the housing approvals process
- Preventing abuse of the housing appeals system
- Providing financial support to municipalities that build more housing
More importantly, nearly all of these recommendations were widely supported across political lines, and they were seen as credible, practical, implementable solutions to the housing crisis. MNTO lauded the report upon its release. This is also why we are particularly disappointed about the province choosing politically risky and costly ways to build more housing with Bill 23 and other related housing announcements, such as building on the greenbelt or reviewing rental replacement protections. These steps undermine the pro-housing consensus that big-tent groups like More Neighbours and others have been building; pitting environmentalists against new homebuyers, new renters against old renters, urbanists against suburbanites, housing abundance groups against tenant protection groups. There are far better, win-win solutions the province could be implementing instead.
Even some HATF recommendations that were present in the initial bill - for instance, removing third party appeals to the OLT - have been removed with these further amendments.
Instead, the government has chosen to spend political capital on municipal governance changes, such as strong mayor powers introduced in Bill 39, as part of their push to build more housing. While we at More Neighbours have no shortage of qualms about the current, hyper-local-focused nature of municipal government, we are unsure about the long-term implications of these changes. At best, it is a downloading of responsibility to the mayor to carry out the key recommendations of the HATF, when the province could just implement the recommendations themselves.
The HATF recommendations would actually lead to construction of new housing. These include upzoning every residential lot to allow fourplexes and allowing mid-to-high density around transit stations as-of-right. Instead, this responsibility was punted away to the mayors, some of whom may not use their new strong mayor powers for good.
More Neighbours Toronto