On Sept. 3, a number of provisions contained in Ontario’s Bill 108 went into effect. Referred to as the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, the legislation contains 13 different statutes overall aimed at reducing the costs and delays associated with the supply of housing in Ontario.
Two of these statutes are certain to have an impact on residential development in Ontario: the Planning Act, Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) Act, Development Charges Act; and the Ontario Heritage Act. Both reverse legislation passed by the previous Liberal government.
According to Jacob Polowin of law firm Gowling WLG, the changes, “go a long way towards restoring a degree of predictability for developers, and towards reinforcing evidence-based planning decision-making.”
Under the new LPAT, appeal processes change significantly. Local tribunals will now be able to hear appeals that can include a variety of new evidence. Previously, tribunals were restricted to either dismissing the appeal or referring the matter back to municipal council. Furthermore, as Polowin writes, “The test on appeal for all planning decisions will once again be what constitutes good planning on the merits, as opposed to just conformity with an official plan or consistency with provincial policy.”
Timelines for planning decisions have also dropped significantly; from 210 to 120 days for official plan amendments; from 180 to 120 days for plans of subdivision; and from 150 to 90 days for zoning bylaw amendments.
Other changes empower the government to speed up development approval times to as little as 45 days in major transit station areas and those deemed provincially significant employment zones, as well as setting new mandatory standards for heritage designation bylaws and the associated appeal process.
As an encouragement to gentle intensification in urban areas, Bill 108 also authorizes detached, semi-detached and row houses to allow additional residential units in both the primary dwelling and ancillary dwelling.
Other important changes under Bill 108 are expected to be proclaimed at a later date, such as a new Community Benefit Charge. This will permit municipalities to demand public benefits from developers in exchange for density, calculated up-front and subject to caps as prescribed by regulation.
“Community Benefit Charges will also replace certain Development Charges, and may include parkland dedication in some circumstances,” writes Polowin. “Municipalities will need to implement a ‘strategy’ and a bylaw to govern and implement this charge.”
The Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) strongly supports Bill 108 but environmentalists do not.
“We believe that the visionary plan will remove barriers to providing more housing for the current and future residents of Ontario,” the OHBA said in a media release. “The OHBA believes that the provincial government has seized on the opportunity to consider the impacts of planning, fiscal and labour policy decisions on housing supply and ultimately prices.”
However, Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy organization Environmental Defence, wrote on its website that, “catering only to requests from the development industry means a bleak future for Ontarians. Bill 108 will mean less community control over planning their towns and cities, threatened forests, streams and wetlands and more gridlock and sprawl. Ontario appears ‘open for business’ for only a few friends of the government.”
As previously reported in Daily Commercial News, the OHBA annual conference later in September will focus its educational sessions on opportunities now available through Bill 108, under the theme “Building Growth Together.”
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Legal Notes column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.