Ontario Taking Bold Action to Build More Homes 

by Editor

Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, revealed some details about the province’s latest plan to build 1.5 million homes by 2031.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former chief planner and the founder of development firm Markee Developments, described the provincial proposal on Twitter as “bold, thoughtful, and specific.”

City staff say they need more time to study the More Homes Built Fast Act, which was introduced at Queen’s Park on Tuesday and calls for the construction of 285,000 homes in Toronto by 2031.

Gregg Lintern, the city’s current chief planner, stated that there were 162,757 proposed homes in the city’s development pipeline at the end of 2020. Those units had received their initial planning approval, building permits, or were under construction but not yet completed.

Over the last five years, the city has approved 28,000 homes per year and built an average of 15,000 units per year.

Here are some of the things Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area may see more of and less of as a result of the new housing policy.

More family-friendly three-bedroom apartments

The housing legislation would lower development charges on purpose-built rental construction, but larger discounts of up to 25% would be available for family-sized units.

This is especially important in the current financial climate, where interest rates are rapidly rising, according to Keesmaat.

“A portion of housing delivery is simply math.” When the math works, developers appear and begin construction. “They don’t work when the math doesn’t work,” she explained.

A lot of projects are currently on hold because the math does not work.

Reduced development fees are “really smart and useful,” according to Keesmaat.

More — and a variety of — housing types in single-family neighbourhoods

In Toronto, where garden, laneway, and secondary suites are already permitted, this change will be more gradual, according to Keesmaat. It is only expected to add about 50,000 homes to the 1.5 million homes that the province wants built in Ontario by 2031.

It will, however, increase density and rental activity because homeowners are permitted to have up to three units on their property. A house with a basement suite and a laneway unit in the backyard could be built on a single residential lot. There would be no minimum size requirement for any of the housing units, and no more than one parking space would be required per unit.

According to Keesmaat, this is significant because it crosses “the rubicon of allowing more intense forms in single-family neighbourhoods.”

It alters how we think about land use and density in areas that have traditionally been protected from density entirely, she says.

Fewer housing developments are being stalled at the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Third-party appeals from individuals or groups, including resident groups, who are not directly involved in official plan amendments, zoning bylaw amendments, or minor variances are being limited by the province.

While this may irritate some residents’ groups, Keesmaat says the planning system is designed to include public meetings along the way.

“There are still really good mechanisms for public participation,” she said, “which is absolutely critical to the process.”

The new rules, however, would eliminate the scenario in which two wealthy neighbours delay housing construction for years, according to Keesmaat.

There are fewer rental replacements.

Currently, cities can specify the size and number of replacement units in a new building if an apartment building with six or more units is demolished for redevelopment.

Although the policy is intended to preserve rental stock, the province claims that it can also prevent the renewal of deteriorating housing stock.

It promises to consult on the removal of rental replacement policies, which is critical, according to Keesmaat. She is concerned that the elimination of rental replacements will result in increased homelessness in Toronto.

“This city’s low-income apartment buildings will be open season,” she said. “People will be displaced because there is already a scarcity of low-income housing.”

More schools in new densely populated areas

The province is forming a new working group to consider innovative ways of incorporating schools in high-density communities, as well as how they can be built quickly so that children are not bused or shunted between schools farther away from their homes. A government press release cited a new Lower Yonge Precinct Elementary School for 455 students, which is being built through a partnership between the Toronto District School Board and Menkes Developments near the foot of Yonge Street on the waterfront.

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