In its continued quest to build 1.5M homes by 2031, the Government of Ontario introduced new legislation that would allow cities to expand their borders to build housing.
The Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act includes a number of new and recently announced changes that the Province says will support increased density, provide cities with more flexibility, and reduce duplication.
"Like the rest of North America, Ontario is experiencing challenging headwinds that are slowing down new home construction, including inflation, soaring interest rates, and labour shortages," Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said in a release.
The Province proposed merging the Provincial Policy Statement, which sets the rules for land use planning, with A Place to Grow, the long-term growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, to create a single Provincial Planning Statement.
The amalgamated plan would, in part, make it easier to build housing on farmland, and require 29 of the largest and fastest-growing municipalities to plan for growth near major transit station areas and other strategic growth areas.
It would also provide cities with greater flexibility to decide where and when they expand their settlement area boundaries. Few details were provided about how the expansion would work, but municipalities would have to consider available infrastructure and mitigate agricultural impacts when considering making a move.
The Act also proposes doubling the maximum fines for offences under the Residential Tenancies Act, such as bad faith evictions, to $100K for individuals and $500K for corporations. The Province doubled the fines to their current $50K and $250K maximums in 2020.
Other changes intended to protect renters include a crack down on renovictions and a $6.5M investment to help clear the backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
To "reduce the cost of building housing," 74 provincial housing development fees, including several related to Tribunals Ontario, the Building Code, and the Ontario Land Tribunal, will be frozen at their current levels.
The legislation also proposes a cooling-off period for new freehold home sales that would allow buyers to cancel their purchase agreement within a specified timeframe.
The Province said the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act will support its "responsible, targeted" approach to building 1.5M new homes by 2031, touting its 96,100 starts housing starts seen in 2022. The 2023 budget, however, predicts a drop in housing starts over the next four years leaving Ontario more than 1M homes short of its goal.