TORONTO - On Tuesday, Minister Steve Clark will table legislation on housing which amends the Planning Act to remove rules that stand in the way of building the denser housing Ontario needs. The proposed changes will allow for a greater number of units to be built more quickly and easily than before, and create alignment across the province.
“This bill is a good start,” said MacKenzie Campbell, a volunteer with More Neighbours Toronto (MNTO). “It is certainly a step forward in providing the tools necessary to end the housing crisis, but there remains a long way to go.”
“The move to permit three units per lot provincewide is welcome as it legalises triplexes, at least in name” said Campbell, “However, it fails to address policies like height limits, aesthetic design guidelines and setback requirements that municipalities weaponise to restrict this missing middle and gentle density.”
A welcome change is that third party appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal will be limited as a result of this bill. "Third party appeals are routinely used by the wealthy and comfortably-housed to delay and deny housing for our most vulnerable, such as the supportive housing project at 175 Cummer Ave. Appeals have also been used to delay permitting the gentlest of density in Toronto, like garden suites," said Campbell.
Transit oriented development is another major focus of the bill. Municipalities will be required to implement as-of-right zoning to reach minimum density targets near major transit stations (MTSAs). This is in line with a recurring ask from MNTO around making MTSAs more effective. “This will begin to unlock the power of transit oriented development,” noted Rocky Petkov, a volunteer with MNTO. “Of course, if cities like Toronto continue to be allowed to set underwhelming density targets, these developments and the transit that serves them will not be able to realise their full potential.”
The legislation will provide relief from ever-increasing fees that can kill housing developments or be passed onto tenants or new homebuyers. "Just this year, the City of Toronto raised development charges by 46%, even though they had already increased by 1,200% since 2008. The various provisions to provide discounts for affordable housing and family-sized units will encourage the types of housing that are currently most lacking," said Petkov.
Municipalities will also be assigned a housing target and be required to develop a plan to meet them. "This is a good start,” observed Petkov, “but there are no accountability mechanisms beyond a ministerial review. It’s easy to imagine that some of these plans will not be credible or simply never be implemented.”
“One of the biggest letdowns with this bill was how there were few if any provisions for the most vulnerable Ontarians,” lamented Petkov, “The future of rental replacement is uncertain, and there is nothing regarding legalising rooming houses meaning it will still fall to city councils to take action on front”.
“Regardless of the shortcomings, this is a step forward,” said Colleen Bailey, an advocate with MNTO. “Ending the era of single family zoning-as-default is something that no other province, or US state for that matter, has done to nearly this extent. With the provincial government promising to table a housing supply action plan every year, we hope this momentum will continue next year and deliver something truly transformational."
Media contact: Rocky Petkov, firstname.lastname@example.org
More Neighbours Toronto is a volunteer-only organization of housing advocates that believe in building more multi-family homes of all kinds for those who dream of building their lives in Toronto. We advocate for reforms to increase our city’s ability to build more homes in every neighbourhood. We are a big-tent organisation with members across the political spectrum who are nevertheless committed to counterbalancing the anti-housing agenda that dominates Toronto's politics, created an affordability crisis, and has cost burdened a new generation of aspiring residents. We are firmly committed to the principle that housing is a human right and believe Toronto should be inclusive and welcoming to all.