The province of Ontario just passed Bill 108, also known as the More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan.
Bill 108 makes significant amendments to 13 Acts, including the:
Conservation Authorities Act
Development Charges Act
Endangered Species Act
Environmental Assessment Act
Environmental Protection Act
Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act
Occupational Health and Safety Act
Ontario Heritage Act
Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
Cannabis Control Act
Labour Relations Act
The purpose of Bill 108 is to make it easier and quicker to build more homes in Ontario to accommodate the growing population. According to the new home building and land development industry, this means cutting red tape and improving approval times. More supply equals more choice, which in theory leads to more affordable home prices.
"Our government wants to put affordable home ownership in reach of more Ontario families, and provide more people with the opportunity to live closer to where they work," says Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in a release. "That's why we consulted widely and acted swiftly to face the housing crisis we inherited head on. This legislation will make it easier to build more homes, more quickly, giving people more housing options and helping to bring prices down."
As you can see from the amended Acts, the home building industry impacts you, your neighbours, and the province in many ways. We’re obviously a huge supporter of new residential development, but it has to be in a responsible manner, and we’re hoping these changes don’t negatively impact our heritage buildings, environment and endangered species.
Let’s look at a couple changes to the Endangered Species Act. Ontario is creating Canada’s first Species at Risk Conservation Trust, which will provide rules on how to protect endangered species and at-risk habitats. This sounds great. But then there’s also a one-year grace period where if a species was listed for the first time, persons who were issued permits before the species was listed won’t have to adhere to some of the land development prohibitions. If we’re understanding this correctly, it’s somewhat concerning.
For heritage buildings, Bill 108 makes it easier for owners to appeal heritage designations, and to bring the case before the LPAT. This is a hazy area because a council and community may consider a building or piece of land to be of historical value, but there’s a chance the LPAT will decide otherwise.
In May, Toronto Council and Chief City Planner Gregg Lintern voiced their concerns about the lack of evidence that these changes will lead to the creation of more affordable housing.
The Ford government has demonstrated they are willing to make changes based on concerns of the people and local government, like when they changed course on their funding cuts to municipal services (though it’s been suggested that Ontario was feeling some pressure from federal Conservatives to make a U-turn since it’s election time). We wonder how flexible Ontario will be with Bill 108 if it turns out there are some amendments that unnecessarily put heritage and environmental elements at risk.
More coverage on the Housing Supply Action Plan coming soon.