Stakeholders praise task force solutions to ‘complex’ housing crisis
Stakeholders of residential construction in Ontario have given unqualified praise to a recent Housing Affordability Task Force report that calls for sweeping changes to the planning, zoning, permitting and appeals system of the province to allow more houses to be built more quickly.
If implemented, the task force’s recommendations could see 1.5 million homes built over the next decade, the report suggests, a number in stark contrast to the 75,000 housing units built in Ontario. in 2020.
The report, released Feb. 8, notes that Ontario is 1.2 million households below the G7 average.
A set of recommendations criticized by mayors suggests that Ontario could create more housing supply by allowing more housing in more locations, including triplexes or quads in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes from now, without the need for municipal approval. Another would prioritize new housing over municipal rules that try to preserve the physical character of the neighborhood.
Representatives from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) strongly endorsed the report.
“The recommendations that come out of the housing task force are very comprehensive and touch on many necessary concepts which, if implemented, will have a positive impact on housing and infrastructure development in the province,” said said RCCAO Director General Nadia Todorova.
RESCON Chairman Richard Lyall said: “The number of recommendations really reflects the complexity of the issue.
“At the end of the day, everyone is aligned. We’ve moved past the dithering and quibbling over supply, demand, etc. We have a supply problem. It is recognized. »
BILD President Jason Sheldon said in a statement that the task force’s recommendations deserve serious consideration.
“The focus on market-based housing is key in this report,” Sheldon said. “While subsidized and government-supported housing clearly has a role to play in building complete communities, the sheer scale of the housing shortage facing the region means that solutions must focus on supply. and the type of primary housing in Canada, and that’s market-based. housing to rent or buy.
The Ontario Association of Architects also released a statement commending the task force’s report. The association supported recommended improvements to the site plan approval process and noted that the “broken” approval system resulted in a cumulative annual cost of about $1 billion in abandoned projects.
Many of the suggestions that we already make in municipalities and the rest would bankrupt municipalities and eliminate democracy,
— Neighborhood Marianne Meed
Mayor of Burlington
Ontario’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus released a statement saying it agreed with many of the recommendations, but cautioned: “Unilateral actions, in the absence of municipal input, can have unintended consequences that slow development and reduce the community support needed to continue adding sustainable housing to our communities. .”
The task force, chaired by Scotiabank CEO Jake Lawrence, was formed in December 2021 and delivered its final report to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark at the end of January 2022.
Lyall observed that the task force is recommending changes that would transfer control of housing developments from municipalities to the province in a meaningful way, including legislative time limits for development approvals.
A recommendation would establish uniform provincial standards for urban design such as building setbacks and also reduce parking requirements in cities with populations over 50,000.
Other measures would prevent appeals “solely to delay projects”, reduce the time it takes to issue decisions and encourage the Ontario Lands Tribunal to prioritize cases that would quickly increase housing supply.
The task force also called on the government to find ways to increase the skilled workforce and boost the digitization of the approvals process.
Commenting on the plans to reduce calls, Todorova said: “It has to be a balance. By all means, citizens should have the right and the opportunity to collaborate and give their opinion on any type of infrastructure that is installed in their neighborhood. But there must be a tipping point when one vote doesn’t override the benefits for a million other people.
Lyall characterized the recommended changes to municipal practices as less an erosion of municipal rights and more a recognition of the rights of people who are excluded from accessing housing.
Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward strongly criticized the report.
“A lot of the suggestions we are already making in municipalities and the rest would bankrupt municipalities and eliminate democracy,” she commented.
“Development would be free play without any of the safeguards we have in place to protect our community and build large, livable communities.”
Meed Ward said the report’s comments that municipalities are too focused on protecting heritage homes are “kind of a dog whistle.” I don’t really know what bothers them.
Burlington has exceeded its population projections and currently has 65 applications with nearly 40,000 units under review, the mayor said.
“We have done our part.
“Planning is about the right growth, the right amount, the right scale in the right place. This is the principle of planning. If we no longer believe in the principle that we don’t need planning, you’re going to put what you want, where you want.
Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.