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Ontario introduces new legislation to increase housing supply in province

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Ontario’s housing minister introduced new legislation on Wednesday, aimed at increasing the supply of housing in the province.

Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, tabled the legislation titled “More homes for Everyone” at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

The plan outlines three key areas the government is focusing on in order to address the issue.

The province said it is making a host of changes to cut red tape and create more homes, make it easier to build community housing and protect homebuyers, homeowners and renters.

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“More Homes for Everyone proposes smart, targeted policies for the immediate term that will make housing fair for hardworking Ontarians and get all types of housing built faster for those who need it and who wanted,” Clark told reporters during a press conference.

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He said the government has “skin in the game.”

“And we’re doing our part to unlock and fast track housing,” he said. “That’s why effective January 1 2023. Our government commits to providing comments within 45 days to any applications for housing developments across all ministries. Over the long term.”

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Government officials said a report published by the province’s task force in February, gives them a long-term roadmap.

Clark said the provincial government has committed to “implementing the task force’s recommendations with the housing supply action plan every year, over four years, starting in 2022, to 2023.”

The provincial government is now launching new consultations on increasing “missing middle” housing including supports for multigenerational housing, access to financing for not-for-profit developers and the housing needs of rural and northern communities.

Clark said this consultation will form the “foundation of how we deliver on the task force’s recommendations.”

“And we need municipalities to be at the table,” Clark said, claiming municipalities said they are “not ready to implement the ambitious policies from the task force’s report right away.”

“To ensure municipalities actively support and are willing to implement these policies, my ministry will establish a housing supply working group this summer in order to engage municipalities on the design of these policies, using information from our multigenerational community consultation, to make sure these policies work on the ground, across municipalities,” he said.

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The government said it is launching another round of 10 new consultations and is establishing a housing supply working group with municipal and federal governments, as well as other stakeholders.

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The proposed legislation also includes changes to the Planning Act and City of Toronto Act 2006, to help “streamline site plan requirements and approval processes, and help municipalities make decisions within realistic timelines.”

The amendments would require delegation of site plan control decisions from municipal councils to staff and would apply to all applications receive on or after July 1.

It would also extend site plan control application review timelines from 30 days to 60 days.

The amendments would also mean that if plans are not approved in a timely manner, refunds for site plan application fees would be granted.

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The legislation also includes proposed amendments to zoning by-laws as of Jan. 21, 2023, which would incentivize municipalities to speed up approvals for housing and community infrastructure while “increasing transparency.”

The bill also contains measures to streamline subdivision approval processes, site plan approval processes, which deal with elements such as walkways and parking, and approvals for modular multi-unit residential buildings.

The government said it will also invest more than $19 million over three years to help the Ontario Land Tribunal and the Landlord and Tenant Board to reduce their backlogs.

According to the proposed legislation, the funding will help tribunals hire more staff, including adjudicators who provide impartial, third-party decision making, so disputes can be resolved more quickly.

Through a new consolidated Homelessness Prevention Program, set to launch on April 1, the province said it would also provide nearly $464 million each year to “help address and prevent homelessness, including through supportive housing that combine housing assistance with wraparound services and supports.”

The government said it is also working with municipalities that are seeking to establish a vacant home tax, which it said is “another tool to increase the supply of housing.”

HOUSING CRISIS IN ONTARIO

In early February, a housing affordability task force convened by the government released a report, which included more than 50 recommendations.

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Included in the recommendations, was a goal of building 1.5 million more homes in 10 years, and to “update planning guidance to make this a priority.”

According to the report, house prices in Ontario have “almost tripled in the past 10 years, growing much faster than incomes.”

“This has home ownership beyond the reach of most first-time buyers across the province, even those with well-paying jobs,” the report reads. “Housing has become too expensive for rental units and it has become too expensive in rural communities and small towns. The system is not working as it should.”

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The report also said the province is 1.2 million homes – both rental and owned – short of the G7 average.

“With projected population growth, that gap is widening, and bridging it will take immediate, bold and purposeful effort,” the report said. “And to support population growth in the next decade, we will need one million more homes.”

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The report said the housing crisis “impacts all Ontarians.”

“The ripple effect of the crisis also holds back Ontario reaching its full potential,” the report said.

The move comes a day after the province announced it would be increasing tax on non-resident homebuyers.

The provincial government said non-resident home buyers would be raised to 20 per cent, up from 15 per cent.

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The tax would also be expanded to the entire province, instead of just the greater golden horseshoe area.

“Our government is working to increase supply and help keep costs low for Ontario families and homebuyers, not foreign speculators looking to turn a quick profit,” Finance Minister Pete Bethlenfalvy said in a statement Tuesday.

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Speaking at the press conference on Wednesday, Bethlenfalvy said the housing crisis is a “countrywide issue.”

He said the Ontario government will “consult on ways to discourage construction slowdowns that may be artificially driving up prices.”

“And we will continue to call on the federal government to work with us to increase supply of housing in the province for Ontario families,” he said.

with files from The Canadian Press

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