In remarks made at the 2022 Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference, Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, reiterated the province’s plans for working closely with municipalities in order to deliver more housing supply.
“The Premier and I have been working closely with municipalities to identify opportunities and bold solutions that would help us effectively address the housing crisis,” he said.
“The message has been clear -- municipalities need the tools and flexibility to get shovels in the ground faster on priority projects, especially housing.”
In addition to the strong mayor powers recently proposed by the province for Toronto and Ottawa -- and referencing the fact that over one-third of Ontario’s growth is slated to occur in these two cities over the next decade -- Clark stated the province will work with municipalities to implement the More Homes for Everyone Plan, outlining concrete actions the government is taking to address the housing crisis.
Using the recommendations set out by the Housing Affordability Task Force (HATF), Clark doubled down on the province’s pledge to provide a housing supply action plan each year over the next four years, and will establish a Housing Supply Action Plan Implementation Team -- to be chaired by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, along with Vice-Chair Cheryl Fort, Mayor of Hornepayne -- to act as liaison between municipalities, the federal government, and industries when creating those plans.
A new tool, called the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator, is also coming down the pipe, said Clark, which will give municipalities the power to fast-track critical local projects, such as housing and long-term homes.
Other previously announced measures include updates to the Ontario Building Code in order to create more types of housing and reduce barriers to occupying existing spaces.
“For example, we made it easier to use innovative construction materials and techniques that can save time and money… and we’re allowing more residents and commercial tenants to safely occupy the lower floors of super tall buildings -- like condominiums and rental buildings -- sooner,” Clark said.
“Municipal building departments can also design and administer their own internship programs to help develop a pipeline of new building officials to better support construction activity.”
The minister also stated that the province is currently underfunded by $490M for housing and homelessness initiatives as part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, based on the province’s level of Core Housing Need, which is the highest in Canada.
Clark also pointed to recent reports of pre-construction cancellations, or developers requesting additional funds from purchasers, saying it’s “unfair and wrong”, and that, “we are actively working to stop it from happening again.”
Such instances have received intense media coverage as of late; for example, as reported by the CBC, a group of Stayner, Ontario buyers are facing an added-on bill of $175,000 to keep the units they purchased years ago, unless they sign a mutual release agreement to forfeit their unit and receive their deposit back.
“We’ve all seen recent media reports of cancelled contracts for new homes -- some for legitimate reasons, but others for clearly unethical ones,” stated Clark
“Last November, the Premier vowed to stop developers from trying to unfairly make extra money off the backs of hard-working people. We unequivocally expect all builders to operate in a professional manner, with fairness, honesty and integrity towards consumers.”
He adds that the government has strengthened its regulatory tools, such as the New Home Construction Licensing Act and the More Homes for Everyone Act, to address these situations, including retroactively fining builders.
“On top of this, we’re protecting consumers by ensuring the deposits they put down for pre-construction condominiums are returned with interest at the Bank of Canada rate in case a project is cancelled,” he adds.
“Taken together, these significantly strengthened penalties and reparations could cost unlawful developers hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single home, as well as the loss of their builders licence.”
It remains to be seen whether these measures will ensure pre-construction buyers receive their units at their original price.
However, Clark states, “These measures include much heftier fines for builders who try to rip off homebuyers, as well as enhanced powers so the Home Construction Regulatory Authority can proactively investigate potential bad behaviour on the part of developers.”