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Ontario bill aims to speed up stalled housing developments, boost student housing

The Canadian Press
Ontario bill aims to speed up stalled housing developments, boost student housing

TORONTO – Ontario is proposing to speed up the creation of student housing and allow municipalities to enact “use it or lose it” policies to force movement on stalled developments, in a new bill aimed at cutting so-called red tape in the homebuilding system.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra introduced an omnibus bill April 10 tackling rules and regulations across several ministries, but the largest sections are on housing and seek to help see 1.5 million homes built in 10 years.

Ontario’s spring budget shows the pace of new home construction is picking up in Ontario, with 88,000 housing starts projected in 2024, but is still far off the levels needed to get to the government’s target by 2031.

Calandra has previously indicated that Ontario needed to be building at least 125,000 homes this year, ramping up to at least 175,000 per year in the near future.

The new bill would eliminate a requirement to have a minimum amount of parking for developments near major transit stations, limit third-party appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal, and allow municipalities to more quickly increase development charges that builders pay on market housing that doesn’t qualify as affordable housing.

Calandra says the measures in the bill speak to challenges municipalities have faced in the homebuilding process and are aimed at removing those obstacles.

“We’re not going to micromanage and dictate a one-size-fits-all approach across the province,” he wrote in a statement.

“Municipalities know their communities best — they know where it makes sense to build homes.”

Calandra and Premier Doug Ford have repeated that sentiment often in recent days as fourplexes have become a flashpoint in Ontario politics and housing policy. 

The opposition parties as well as housing advocates want to see the province create a rule that would automatically allow up to four units on a residential property anywhere in the province, but Ford has said he is not in favour of that, even as the federal government ties $5 billion in new funding for the provinces to implementing a similar policy.

Calandra’s new bill does seek to remove barriers to building additional housing such as garden and laneway suites, such as restrictions on the number of bedrooms per lot.

It would also exempt standardized housing designs from certain planning rules to speed up approvals, which the government says could allow Ontario to partner with British Columbia and the federal government on a catalogue of pre-approved designs.

The legislation also covers a number of more minor regulatory changes, but also proposes to allow municipalities to provide incentives to certain businesses to help attract investment and enacts the government’s reversal of dissolving Peel Region.

This bill would amend the law that would have broken up the upper-tier region to instead task the transition board initially responsible for overseeing that municipal divorce with considering how to make Peel Region more efficient. 

© 2024 The Canadian Press

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