Ontario government introduces bill to fight housing crisis, build homes faster

A new bill has been introduced to aid the creation and development of housing in Ontario.

On Wednesday, March 30th, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, tabled the More Homes for Everyone Act at Queen’s Park. The bill, if approved, would speed up development timelines while cracking down on housing speculation and unethical development practices.

“More Homes for Everyone proposes smart, targeted policies for the immediate term that will make housing fair for hard-working Ontarians and get all types of housing built faster for those who need it and who want it,” said Minister Clark in a press conference after tabling the bill.

Minister Clark stated that the Housing Affordability Task Force report, which was published back in February with 55 recommendations on improving housing affordability in Ontario, will be the “government’s housing roadmap.”

A housing supply action plan would be proposed every year over four years, starting in 2022-2023, that supports the recommendations outlined in the Task Force’s report. The first step would be a consultation on multi-generational communities to deliver more gentle density.

Minister Clark stressed during the press conference that municipalities are needed at the table, citing that some have told the provincial government that they are not ready to implement the “ambitious,” policies from the Task Force right away. To ensure that municipalities “actively support and are willing to implement these policies,” a housing supply working group will be established this summer.

Bill proposes changes for developers, building codes, and municipalities

Effective January 1st, 2023, Minster Clark said that the government is committing to providing comments within 45 days to any applications for housing developments across all ministries.

Starting on the same day, applicants who do not receive approval of their site plan application within specific time frames would have their application fees refunded through a phased system, receiving a 50 percent refund within 60 days up to a total refund by 120 days. Changes to the Building Code would also allow 12-story mass timber buildings and facilitate more infill and low-rise multi-unit housing, among other amendments.

The More Homes for Everyone Act would include a new tool “specifically designed to accelerate planning processes for municipalities,” called the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator according to a press release. Over $19 million over three years would be given to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and the Landlord and Tenant Board to reduce their backlogs by appointing new adjudicators and handling disputes more quickly.

“Ontario is the best place to live, start a business and raise a family, but we can only build on our success if all hardworking Ontarians and their families are able to find the home they need and want,” said Premier Doug Ford in the release. “As Ontario’s population and our economy continue to grow, building more homes is another way that we’re keeping costs down for families across the province.”

The More Homes for Everyone plan raises the Non-Resident Speculation Tax (NRST) rate to 20 percent and expands it across the entire province, which came into effect on March 30th. The bill also introduces consumer protections for new home buyers by doubling fines and extending building license suspensions on unethical developers, changes that were announced last week. Consultation with the public on proposed regulation changes to address unethical condo cancellations is underway.

“We are following through on the Premier’s promise by cracking down on bad actors and defending future homeowners from the unethical and ​​egregious practices of unfairly canceling pre-construction projects,” said Government and Consumer Services Minister Ross Romano at the press conference. “The More Homes for Everyone Act will deter bad behavior by doubling fines for corporations and individuals who try to rip off Ontarians by canceling pre-construction projects just to increase the price of their units.”

Early reactions from stakeholders in the development and real estate industry have started to emerge.

Dave Wilkes, president, and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), applauded the government’s actions, citing that previous provincial and municipal governments have made it more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to build new housing which has led to the present market conditions.

“The consequences of these decisions will push many prospective home buyers out of the region in search of housing they can afford and will affect the GTA’s overall competitiveness,” said Wilkes in a press release. “With the steps introduced today, building on the Housing Supply Action Plan of 2019, this government is enabling the region to turn a corner on supply and address the generational challenges being faced by the GTA.”

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