Just shy of a month after the Ontario government announced Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, the Progressive Conservatives have ruled to amend the housing legislation.
One of the revisions to Bill 23 is a reversal of a proposed ban that would prevent residents or environmental groups from appealing developments at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). Another gives municipalities jurisdiction to enforce green building standards on developers. In addition, it proposes that development fee discounts be granted to certain development projects -- in particular, those building rental housing -- retroactively, effective January 2022.
When Bill 23 was introduced in late October -- promising to allow multiple units on all residential lots, cut development fees, and ban third parties from contesting developments at the OLT -- it was celebrated by some, but hotly contested by others. Environmentalists and housing advocates were amongst the entities to raise concerns.
Jessica Bell, Member of Provincial Parliament for University-Rosedale, has been vocal about her disapproval of the bill from the outset.
“The Government's Housing Bill 23 is a sweeping bill that affects the housing and building sector, renters, conservation authorities, development charges, municipal budgets, consumer protections, and more,” said Bell in an article published shortly after the legislation was publicized. “Bill 23 will build more homes, which is necessary to address the housing shortage. Bill 23, however, jeopardizes affordable homes, could make renting more expensive, permits massive urban sprawl, and cuts funding to municipalities.”
The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights and the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario also spoke out against the bill, echoing Bell’s sentiments that it would be “bad for renters” and could “seriously jeopardize the affordable housing that exists.”
Despite Monday’s amendments, Bell and the bill’s many other critics fear that the legislation carries the same risk as before, saying that they leave the environmental and affordability concerns largely unaddressed.
“Ontario is living through a housing crisis; renters are living in fear of being evicted because their landlord is upping the rent, and families making decent salaries are forced to move far from their communities because finding an affordable home just isn’t possible,” Official Opposition Interim NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said in an article published yesterday. “Doug Ford’s scheme fails to crack down on speculation, protect tenants, or build inclusive neighbourhoods with affordable and missing middle housing options… Instead, the Conservatives shamefully chose to continue making the housing crisis worse while lining the pockets of Ford’s wealthy developer buddies.”
Bill 23 goes back for a third reading on Wednesday morning.