When the Ontario government introduced Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, earlier this month, it continued to honour the pledge it had made as part of its Housing Supply Action Plan to have annual housing legislation aimed at addressing housing supply and affordability in the province. At the same time, the government announced a consultation on changes to the provincial policy statement (PPS), the document that governs land use planning in Ontario. Bill 97 and the PPS consultation are significant steps toward addressing the very complex problem of housing supply and affordability.

As I often point out, the housing challenges in our province and region are the results of misguided policy decisions made by past governments and can only be addressed through policy that enables rather than hinders the building of new housing. The recently announced consultation proposes to combine the PPS and another policy document that governs how and where housing will be built — the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe — into a single document that prioritizes housing. If adopted, this change will represent a significant shift in planning policy that will simplify the addition of new housing. 

Bill 97 includes two measures that would facilitate the addition of housing supply. The first is a proposal to make it easier to convert land zoned for employment uses to residential uses, while protecting true employment spaces through a new, modern definition of employment. The other is a proposal to provide greater flexibility for municipalities to expand their boundaries to accommodate future growth. As housing supply and affordability are contingent on land supply, this change would help deliver much-needed housing.

As its name implies, the legislation also includes new protections for tenants and new home buyers. The first proposal seeks to protect tenants against abuse and evictions — vital in a time of tight rental supply and rising rents — while recognizing that property owners must be able to maintain and renovate their properties. The second proposal introduces a cooling-off period on purchases of newly built freehold homes. Our industry looks forward to participating in the consultations on this proposal.

With the introduction of Bill 97 — the provincial government’s fourth housing bill under the Housing Supply Action Plan — and the announcement of the PPS consultation, the government should be applauded for continuing to take positive steps to address housing supply, bring affordability back to the province and enable more Ontarians to buy the homes they need.