On the November 8 episode of The Final Word, Silas Le Blanc talks about the new proposed housing bill that aims to create more dense housing in Ontario. With Toronto needing to build 285,000 new homes to solve the impending housing crisis. He speaks to Pirawin Namasivayam, a volunteer coordinator at More Neighbours Toronto, an organization made up of torontonians advocating for better housing in the city.
The More Homes Built Faster Act aims to reduce developer charges allow more units on one residential lot and pursues rent to own programs. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government aims to build 1.5 million houses in Ontario in the next 10 years. The bill has not been passed yet, but is expected to contains major changes to development rules across Ontario, and incentivizes developers to build more homes.
The province has identified 29 municipalities in which most housing will need to be built and will require them to pledge to build a certain number of houses. However, there is little in terms of accountability measures to ensure that these municipalities will follow through with their pledges.
The New Democratic Party, Ontario’s Official Opposition, is asking the province to scrap part of its new housing plan, saying that it will weaken tenant protections and further reduce the amount of affordable rental properties.
Jessica Bell, the University-Rosedale MPP, said that the bill would allow the province to curb the powers of municipal rental replacement bylaws that are in place to protect tenants in the event of demolition of their unit. She says it would be easier for developers to build more luxury condos and toss tenants out by the hundreds.
Aside from the impact on renters, many environmental groups have also raised concerns about this bill. CUPE briefing reported that Ford had received warnings from several public servants about environmental risks to parks wetlands conservation areas and Indigenous territory.
This included a 17 page internal document which was shared with all of Ontario’s ministers prior to the tabling of this bill. It shows that the Ford government puts significant weight into winning support from developers by lessening obligations to protect parks, watersheds and more. According to this document, the bill would limit the ability of Ontario residents and environmental groups to appeal planning and development decisions. The bill would also remove sustainable development goals—such as Toronto’s green standards—which is an energy efficiency requirement introduced 12 years ago that many other municipalities have aimed to replicate.
Additionally, Ontario would see developers have more control over Ontario’s park planning. Currently, Ontario developers normally have to dedicate 20-25 per cent of public green space into new development projects or pay a fee. The Ford government plans to get rid of these caps and base the percentage of green space on the hectares of land with no consideration of density. Finally, a lot of at risk habitat will no longer be a factor in deciding what wetlands should be protected.
More Neighbours Toronto supports the bill, but Namasivayam says more needs to be done to improve housing density.
“There are steps towards density. Three units permitted as of right now, without needing a bylaw amendment is a pretty good thing,” he says.
“Affordable housing, nonprofit housing, inclusionary zoning units aren’t subject to charges which also makes affordable housing more viable.”
However, Namasivayam says the bill didn’t change the law regarding square footage. “If you had a home, you’d have to have the same square footage with three units, which most times is not viable for developers to do,” he says.
Nevertheless, the bill might improve public transit for students, according to Namasivayam.
“These units are probably going to be more geared towards students because they aren’t likely to have cars. They’re likely to rely on public transit a lot, and so by increasing the number of units, you’re really decreasing the expenses for students,” he says.
In the future, Namasivayam says he would like to see even more units per property, the removal of parking minimums, and getting rid of site plan approvals.
“We have to start now, in order to correct the housing market or to have not exorbitant rental prices and property prices 10 or 20 years down the line,” he says.