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Ontario unveils housing legislation to cut red tape, accelerate home construction: OREA & board thoughts

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On Wednesday, the Government of Ontario introduced new housing legislation outlining the latest steps it’s taking to cut red tape and help municipalities get more homes built in their communities. This is key to the province’s commitment to building at least 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Paul Calandra, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, minister of legislative affairs and government house leader, describes the Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act will help to “keep cutting red tape and make it cheaper and easier for Ontario families, workers and businesses when it comes to interacting with the Ontario government.”

Calandra says that all actions to date including the announcement are “saving people and businesses 1.5 billion hours and $1.2 billion each year.”

 

Over $1.8 billion in funding to help build housing-enabled infrastructure

 

He went on to highlight that municipalities know their communities best, including where it makes sense to build homes, and that this is why the government is providing funding and tools to build more homes and infrastructure needed to support homes of all types.

“Our government is providing over $1.8 billion to help build housing-enabled infrastructure across the province,” the minister announced. “This is on top of our $1.2 billion Building Faster fund, which is rewarding municipalities for hitting their housing targets.

 

Cutting red tape

 

Calandra outlined measures to build homes faster and at a lower cost:

  • Letting homebuilders decide the right number of parking spaces in new residential near transit
  • Making it easier to build new garden, laneway and basement suites by eliminating barriers to these units including maximum lot coverage and limits on the number of bedrooms allowed per lot
  • Prioritizing infrastructure for ready-to-go housing projects with a new “use it or lose it” process to ensure that builders get moving once they receive their approvals
  • Improving consultation in providing municipalities and builders with greater certainty to get more 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 and supporting innovative construction measures like mass timber

 

Where OREA and Ontario boards stand

 

Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), says the association is pleased to see progress on important solutions from its housing supply report and advocacy on modular construction, aimed at streamlining approvals and getting more homes built: 

  • Exploring new financing and governance to support critical infrastructure like water and wastewater, which would reduce upfront costs to homebuyers by as much as $50,000
  • Developing business service standards for permit/license services to reduce regulatory delays
  • Eliminating parking minimums near transit to enable greater density along transit
  • Making it easier to build more garden, laneway and basement suites
  • Permitting mass timbre structures up to 18 storeys
  • Supporting standardized designs to reduce delays and costs for modular homes

OREA notes another important solution in the Bill is streamlining approvals for student housing.

The Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB) feels similarly. Its president, Curtis Fillier, says, “Ottawa’s housing crisis — like many others throughout the province — is rooted in a chronic lack of supply, and OREB is encouraged by the Ontario government’s focus on getting more homes built faster. Measures such as eliminating parking minimums near transit and making it easier to build garden, laneway or basement suites will help drive progress.”

Likewise, the Chatham-Kent Association of Realtors (CKAR) commends the Ontario government for its efforts to reduce red tape and for recognizing the barriers that limit the ability to increase housing supply. Specifically, the association feels the “use it or lose it” housing strategy for builders can help accelerate new home construction and increase overall supply, reduce bureaucratic obstacles and steer builders towards more affordable housing options.

Jennifer Pearce, president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), says the new legislation would enact several important measures GTA realtors have worked closely with the government and real estate industry partners on over the last year.

She explains the proposal to limit third-party appeals of official plans, official plan amendments, zoning by-laws and zoning by-law amendments is a policy change “that could speed up the necessary approvals to get shovels in the ground faster on new housing. TRREB is advocating for changes to expedite housing approvals and we are encouraged the province is responding.”

TRREB also acknowledges the proposal to remove the requirement for a minimum amount of parking spaces in developments near most major transit stations will remove thousands of dollars in construction costs per parking space, making units more affordable for home buyers and more projects viable.

 

‘Still work to be done’

 

However, Hudak points out there is still work to be done: “Any changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal should be focused on preventing abuse and eliminating backlog. Similarly, any changes to how municipalities collect and spend development charges cannot increase costs for future homebuyers.” 

He highlights the association’s disappointment that two key recommendations by the Province’s Housing Affordability Task Force — strongly supported by Ontario realtors — were not included in the Bill.

 

Call for eliminating exclusionary zoning

 

“We need to build more homes on existing properties and allow upzoning along major transit corridors if we’re going to address the housing affordability and supply crisis in our province. The Province is making significant investments in transit and passenger rail, and building more homes along those lines is common sense. Eliminating exclusionary zoning and allowing four units, as-of-right, province-wide, is an essential key to unlocking affordable homeownership,” Hudak stresses.

Fillier agrees: “If Ontario is going to achieve its goal of 1.5 million new homes in Ontario by 2031, we need direct solutions to build up our communities — including building more homes on existing properties and allowing upzoning along major transit corridors.

That’s why OREB has been and will continue advocating for exclusionary zoning to be eliminated. We need the Ontario government to enable ‘as of right’ zoning for four units per lot, which will go a long way in developing middle housing that is sorely lacking in our markets. Without this, Ontarians will remain locked out of the housing market due to a lack of suitable and affordable housing.”

 

Standardized and widely accepted definitions for housing starts and completions needed

 

Pearce says that going forward, TRREB encourages the province to commit to standardized and widely accepted definitions for housing starts and completions as it tracks its progress towards meeting the 1.5 million homes target.

“Ontario was the first province in Canada to report on its housing supply progress and it’s crucial that we continue to present a consistent picture of the progress towards our goal,” she says.

 

“Building more types of homes for more people allows smaller municipalities like ours to explore creating affordable solutions to meet the wide needs of our community while considering cost-effective approaches for construction,” says Amber Pinsonneault, chair of CKAR Government Relations Committee.

“We are commending Minister Calandra and Premier Ford for introducing this piece of legislation that encourages all MPPs to get behind a bill to deliver more homes Ontario families can afford,” Pearce expresses.

Hudak says, “We commend Premier Ford and Minister Calandra for the actions put forward in this piece of legislation, but we hope to see them go further. The government needs to keep its foot on the gas with bold action if we’re going to accomplish the goal of building 1.5 million new homes by 2031.”

 


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