When the Housing Supply Action Plan was announced, members of the new home industry praised the Bill, but it looks like Toronto City Council has many concerns.
According to Chief City Planner Gregg Lintern, there’s not much evidence that shows that Bill 108 will actually make it easier or faster to build new homes. Council is also concerned about the idea of decreasing development charges and the lack of tools to accommodate the development of more affordable units.
For the building industry, more supply equals more choice for buyers, which leads to lower prices. So, more supply equals more affordable homes. Toronto councillors don’t believe it’s that straightforward. To us, this is where Inclusionary Zoning policy would come into play. If the province can make it easier to build more homes, then municipalities should play their Inclusionary Zoning card to secure a certain percentage of affordable units. City staff are currently drafting an Inclusionary Zoning policy for consideration.
The slightly more concerning part of Bill 108 is the potential reduction in development charges. If development charges were lower, then yes, buying a new construction home would be more affordable because builders pass down the development charges to buyers. But, these fees are collected in order to support population growth. When there’s more people, the community needs more money to support, service, and build infrastructure.
The concept of reduced City revenue is combined with the pressure from recent cuts to Toronto funding. The province recently announced cuts to a variety of services, including nearly $85 million for children’s services, which supports 6,000 subsidized daycare spaces for low-income families. There’s also a $65 million cut to Toronto Public Health, which provides services like free breakfasts for children in low-income families.
City Council has floated the idea of sending out a second property tax bill to cover the $178 million gap in funding. It’s either that or cut back on the level of services currently being offered. The province says there are efficiencies to be made, which would limit the impact of the cuts, but the City Council isn’t convinced.
“If Doug Ford doesn't reverse his massive cuts, all Toronto residents and businesses will be getting a second tax bill to fill the $178M budget hole he created for our city. #DougFordTaxHike,” tweeted City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 13 - Toronto Centre.
This is a complex issue. Toronto is seemingly taking personal attacks from the provincial government, while battling a housing affordability issue. If homeowners receive a second property tax bill, or services get cut, then living in Toronto will become even more out of reach for many.
“Our industry has long said we need to build more homes to support the forecast in population and employment over the next 20 years,” writes Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association in YorkRegion.com. “Today, over nine million people live in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and by 2041, a projected 13.5 million will call this region home, along with almost two million more jobs. This is real growth that we need to plan for if we ever want to improve affordability for homebuyers.”
Vaccaro continues, saying “The plan will guide the future type and location of new housing supply across Ontario. It will need to be supported by investment in transit and complemented by municipal plans.”
So far, the biggest municipality (by population) isn’t on board. We’re interested to see how this affects the rollout of Bill 108 initiatives.