The Ontario Liberals are tabling a new housing bill that, if passed, would help to advance the multiplex conversation and promote more gentle density province-wide.

MPP Adil Shamji introduced the BUILD Ontario Act (more formally known as the Building Universal and Inclusive Land Development in Ontario Act, but that’s a mouthful) at Queen’s Park on Tuesday morning. In essence, Shamji told reporters, the act looks at expanding as-of-right zoning allowances for fourplexes across all of Ontario (so long as the area is already zoned for residential use).

This is a recommendation that has been plucked straight out of Ontario’s Housing Affordability Taskforce report, which was unveiled in February 2022 and hones in on how the province can increase supply through policy.

In large part, the report makes a case for getting rid of exclusionary zoning in Ontario in favour of policy that is gentle-density-friendly. It argues that making better use of land that’s already built up will allow municipalities to make better use of existing infrastructure, like roads, water and wastewater systems, and transit. The report also points out that modernizing zoning rules to encourage alternative housing formats like fourplexes will “open the door to more rental housing, which in turn would make communities more inclusive.”

Housing supply and affordability — or lack thereof — are certainly hot-button issues in Ontario, so this latest move from the Liberals is nothing if not timely.

Fourplexes are already permitted in some Ontario cities, it’s worth noting. In what was regarded as a milestone move for the city, Toronto City Council voted in favour of policy and zoning changes to permit multiplexes containing up to four residential units city-wide last spring. The City of Mississauga has since followed suit after former Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who is currently the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, opted to leverage her ‘strong mayor powers’ to set the framework for fourplexes in motion in October. It was Crombie's mayoral directive that helped Mississauga to reach a $113M Housing Accelerator Fund agreement with the federal government in December.

“This is about increasing the supply of housing and providing greater opportunity for those who want to live in our city, including families and older adults who want to age in place,” Crombie said at that time. “It is one of many ways we are working to build the ‘missing middle’ in our city and communicate to residents that Mississauga is tackling the housing crisis.”

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