The More Homes for Everyone Act, introduced by the provincial government, is a good first step towards solving the critical lack of housing supply here in Ontario. However, more measures are necessary.

The legislation shows government is moving in the right direction. The proposals aim to cut red tape and improve housing affordability, albeit gradually, by amending various existing acts affecting the home building industry. The suggested changes will also speed up development approvals.

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Specifically, the Act commits to a housing supply action plan that will be tabled every year over four years. Importantly, the plan also proposes several measures to streamline approval processes at the municipal level. Municipalities would be required, for example, to gradually refund application fees if a decision isn’t made within legislated timelines.

Starting Jan. 1, 2023, applicants who do not get site plan approvals within the legislated timeframe of 90 days would get their zoning bylaw amendment fees refunded by municipalities through a phased approach. After 120 days, 100 per cent of the fees would be refunded.

A tool called the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator would also help municipalities prioritize certain projects and speed-up their own planning processes for housing and infrastructure.

Proposed changes to the Building Code would streamline modular multi-unit residential building approvals, facilitate more infill and low-rise multi-unit housing by exploring opportunities to allow single means of egress in four- and six-storey buildings, and allow the build of 12-storey mass timber buildings.

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The legislation also takes aim at foreign buyers who are snapping up properties by increasing the non-resident speculation tax rate to 20 from 15% and expanding the tax to apply province-wide.

Meanwhile, funds would be committed to help the Ontario Land Tribunal and Landlord and Tenant Board reduce their backlogs.

At RESCON, we were pleased that Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark reiterated his commitment to streamlining and digitizing the development approvals process and creating a data standard to speed-up approvals and get homes built faster. Three funding streams are available for municipalities through the Streamline Development Approval Fund, Municipal Modernization Program, and Audit and Accountability Fund. 

RESCON and more than 30 other industry stakeholders have been working on One Ontario, an initiative to establish data exchange standards for a province-wide, digital e-permitting system to replace the fragment patchwork of systems and processes now in use by municipalities across the province.

We strongly believe that Ontario needs a uniform, digitized e-permitting system in place for use by all 444 municipalities, provincial ministries, conservation authorities and all approval and law agencies. Such a system would speed-up development approvals and result in homes getting built faster.

Keeping the Ball Rolling

There is no silver bullet to solve the crisis. However, adopting 55 sweeping recommendations that were proposed recently by a Housing Affordability Task Force would certainly get us headed in the right direction. The proposals would pave the way for building 1.5M homes over the next decade.

Minister Clark has indicated he intends to work with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and individual municipalities to address any concerns they might have.

It is important, however, to keep the ball rolling as the housing crisis is critical to our economic recovery.

At a recent summit presented by RESCON, political leaders at the federal, provincial and municipal level all indicated the housing crisis is an urgent matter and immediate action must be taken.

Canada has raised its immigration targets and is set to welcome almost 431,645 new immigrants this year, 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024. These people will obviously need a place to live, so the problem is acute. The pressure to dramatically increase the supply of housing in Ontario is mounting.

We must strike while the iron is hot. It is my hope that the More Homes for Everyone Act is just the start.