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Ontario Moves to Override Municipal Zoning, Limit Affordable Housing to 25-Year Terms

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The Government of Ontario introduced new legislation on Tuesday that would bring about nearly 50 housing-related reforms aimed at rapidly increasing the province’s supply.

The legislation, brought forward by Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, would allow the province to override municipal zoning to allow multi-unit homes as of right on all residential lots, cut fees for developers, and bar residents or environmental groups from appealing a development to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). The legislation also seeks to cap affordable housing terms to 25 years.

On all residential lands across the province, up to three units would be permitted, all of which would be exempt from development charges and parkland dedication fees. A homeowner looking to add a basement apartment and garden home to their property, for example, would be able to do so without needing a by-law amendment.

Near transit hubs, new as-of-right zoning would allow for further density. The provincial plan does not specify what exactly these zoning changes will allow, but notes that the changes will be made to reduce approval timelines and get homes built faster. Once the development policies are approved for major transit stations, municipalities would be given one year to update their zoning by-laws to accommodate faster development in these areas.

The government of Ontario has had its eye on adding 1.5M new homes to the province by 2031, and the new legislation provides a by-municipality breakdown, delegating a certain number of these future homes to each municipality. The municipalities would then be required to develop pledges outlining how they will meet their building target. Toronto, which is given the largest share, would be expected to build 285,000 new homes. It’s followed by Ottawa with an expectation of 151,000 new homes, Mississauga with 120,000 and Brampton with 113,000.

In an attempt to cut costs around development, the province wants to reduce parkland requirements for higher density residential developments, reduce community benefit charges, and extend the development charge review period from five to 10 years. Rental developers would also see development charges lowered, with discounts given to family-sized units.

The proposed legislation also calls for a number of changes to inclusionary zoning policies. There would now be a 5% cap on the number of affordable units and a maximum 25-year affordability period. This comes in stark contrast to the City of Toronto’s new inclusionary zoning policy passed last fall that calls for 22% affordable units by 2030 with a minimum affordability period of 99 years. The province confirmed that cities with policies that go beyond the newly proposed provincial caps would have to revise their policies to conform.

The province has vowed to slash red tape and move development applications along more quickly by reducing the number of approvals required. The legislation includes a proposals to remove sit plan control requirements for developments with less than 10 units, and for larger projects, reviews will focus on health and safety issues rather than architectural or decorative details.

Municipalities will not be required to hold public meetings for every draft plan of subdivision, rather these will become optional. And appeals to the OLT will not be limited from third-parties (ie. those not directly involved in the development).

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