It’s been nearly two years since the Housing Affordability Task Force (HAFT) released its landmark report, setting in motion Ontario’s ambitious goal to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Alongside the adoption of the ambitious 10-year target, the task force’s report includes an additional 54 recommendations intended to address affordability and build more homes.

Two years on, what progress has the province made towards these recommendations?

The latest policy report from the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) analyses just that, delving into the steps taken — or not — on each HAFT recommendation to date.

OREA found that the government has fully implemented 18 of the recommendations, including permitting as-of-right secondary suites, garden suites, and laneway houses province-wide, made “major progress” towards nine more, and achieved “some” progress on 15 recommendations.

These include permitting the as-of-right conversion of under-utilized commercial properties to residential or mixed-use, and creating a more permissive land use, planning, and approvals system.

However, 13 recommendations have yet to be acted upon at all — permitting as-of-right multi-tenant housing, aligning property taxes for purpose-built rental with those of condos and low-rise homes, and eliminating or reducing tax disincentives to housing growth among them.

While the report remarks on the “substantial” progress made to date, as well as the “sweeping changes” the Ford government has made to planning and development since 2018, it notes that the bold goal of 1.5 million homes requires further action.

In 2022, Ontario managed 96,000 housing starts, and early estimates for 2023 point to 90,000 new units. Although the figures are higher than in years past, they fall short of the 150,000 starts needed per year to achieve the 2031 goal. The government’s own projections for the next few years continue to fall short.

“While initial legislative reforms were commendable — aligning official plans with provincial priorities, encouraging growth, and ensuring short-term land is available for homes — momentum has recently slowed due to high interest rates that are working against reforms,” the report reads.

“The Government of Ontario needs to continue to stand up against red tape and municipal NIMBYism, and keep up the momentum to solve the housing affordability crisis and create future generations of homeowners in the province.”

As such, OREA has put forth 10 new recommendations for the government to take in 2024 which will have a “significant and immediate impact" on Ontario’s housing supply crisis.

Building on the HATF’s original report, the action items are divided into three key sections: Fix the Ontario Land Tribunal and Zoning, Lower Housing Costs, and More Workers and New Models of Ownership.

The first includes reforming the Ontario Land Tribunal by preventing abuse, eliminating, backlog, and allowing fines for unreasonable delays.

The Province should also implement land use changes to end exclusionary zoning, modernize zoning to support commercial-to-residential conversions and greater density along transit corridors, and streamline new development applications by requiring pre-consultations.

To lower housing costs, water and wastewater services should be allowed to be provided through a municipal services corporation, the Land Transfer Tax should be abolished, and how municipalities collect and spend development charges must be reformed, OREA says.

Lastly, the association argues that government should increase the number of skilled tradespeople in Ontario, fund pilot programs that create innovative pathways to homeownership, and implement provincial loan guarantees and support for innovative ownership projects.

Together, the 10 action items can help boost housing supply and improve affordability in Ontario.

“It used to be that every generation had a better shot at owning a home than the last, but the dream of homeownership is slipping away and there is an urgent need to address Ontario’s housing affordability crisis,” said OREA CEO Tim Hudak.

“The Ford Government must keep its foot on the gas by continuing to champion pro-homeownership policies like the ones that Ontario Realtors continue to put on the table. We fully support the provincial government resuming, at full speed, their efforts to fulfill our housing ambition and bring affordability closer to home in Ontario.”

Real Estate News