Ontario Liberals push for policy allowing fourplexes as-of-right across province

Click to play video: 'Ontario Liberals push for more fourplexes'
Ontario Liberals push for more fourplexes
As Colin D'Mello reports, the Ontario Liberals will table legislation that would allow developers and homeowners to build fourplexes across the province – Mar 19, 2024

The Ontario Liberals will table legislation that would allow developers and homeowners to build fourplexes across the province, Global News has learned, even as the Ford government actively considers how to handle the policy.

Liberal MPP Adil Shamji is expected to introduce a private members bill at Queen’s Park on Tuesday that would allow four units and four-storey buildings to be constructed on any piece of residential urban property across the province, without the need for municipal approval first.

The policy comes directly from the province’s 2022 Housing Affordability Taskforce report, commissioned by the Ford government in the run-up to the last election.

The report found greenlighting four-unit buildings on a single residential lot as of right would “allow more kinds of housing that are accessible” to a wider range of people.

“It will get more housing built in existing neighbourhoods more quickly than any other measure,” the report said.

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The policy is one the Ford government has not implemented, even as it struggles to meet its goal of 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

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‘The intention was right’: Ford says on controversial Greenbelt land swap after reversing decision

Ontario started 109,011 homes in 2023 — including long-term care beds and basement units — just below its target of 110,000 but well below the 150,000 annual average needed to make the final number.

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A Progressive Conservative source previously told Global News mandating four-unit developments as of right has long been considered within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as a tool to potentially boost housing. The source said it had been weighed in previous housing supply laws but had not made the final draft.

The government has introduced four rounds of housing supply legislation and is in the final stages of finalizing the fifth iteration of its plan. Global News understands the policy is actively part of the government’s housing discussions.

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Asked about the issue on Tuesday, Housing Minister Paul Calandra was coy on his next round piece of legislation.

“We’ll have some more additional information coming out very, very soon,” he said.

“We’ve been talking to our municipal partners and overwhelmingly we’re hearing the exact same message over and over and over again: affordability.”

Calandra also said his government hadn’t seen “the uptake” it had hoped for on a decision to allow three units as of right in Ontario.

“I know there’s more that needs to be done on that,” he added.

A slide from the handover binder presented to Paul Calandra lays out the annual plan for housing supply laws in Ontario. Global News

But while Ford’s cabinet has yet to announce what route it plans to take, Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie is set to formally unveil the party’s policy as it looks to define itself ahead of the 2026 election.

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“Despite fourplexes being one of the core policy recommendations outlined in the government’s own Housing Affordability Task Force, the Ford government has done nothing but delay and dither on housing,” Crombie stated in an advance copy of a speech provided to Global News.

“As you know, as Mayor of Mississauga, I had to get it done on fourplexes in Mississauga, and now we will do the same thing in Ontario’s legislature.”

In late 2023, Crombie used “strong mayor” powers – granted to her by Premier Doug Ford – to force Mississauga council to allow fourplexes to be built as of right, after city councillors initially rejected the proposal.

The move came when the federal government threatened to withhold funding to her city after it rejected the policies.

The Liberals aren’t the first party to try and force the Ford government to accept the policy recommendation.

In November, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner tabled Bill 156 which looks to tweak Ontario’s planning laws to allow “four residential units in a detached house, semi-detached house or rowhouse as well as multi-unit residential buildings of up to four stories.”

The government, which controls the legislative agenda, recently punted the bill to a Queen’s Park standing committee – a common tactic that allows proposed legislation from opponents to languish.

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The Liberals said their legislation will be the first in a series aimed at accelerating housing supply across the province.

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