We recognize that one of the most pressing issues these days is the lack of affordable housing across our City and Province and a concerted effort from all levels of government is needed to find workable solutions to address this issue. Currently many parents are worried that their children will have a difficult time finding homes that they can afford.
It is because of this that the Premier of Ontario has struck up the Housing Affordability Task Force. Their mandate was to find actionable and concrete solutions to help Ontario to build up the housing supply. On February 8, 2022, the Housing Affordability Task Force released their recommendations to the Province which has garnered much discussion and debate amongst land owners, developers and planners, municipal leaders and ratepayers.
This week at our Working Committee of the Whole session, Council had a fulsome discussion on this very topic. I believe that I, along with my colleagues and staff, understand the intent of the recommendations contained in the Task Force Report; however, we do question some of the reasoning and validity behind some of these recommendations when it comes to “good planning”. We recognize the importance of monitoring housing supply on a regular basis to track progress towards planning and developing complete communities while conforming to provincial supply requirements, however, we are concerned with some of the recommendations which will negatively impact local decision making and public consultation.
For example, there were many recommendations that suggest “as of right” permit is the way to move ahead, and I would have to disagree as it must ensure conformity, good planning and the best interests of the public. The Province must give municipal council the decision-making authority on land use planning to help increase housing supply. Site specific situations must be considered and not simply a broad application as recommended by the Task Force. The suggestion of more permissive land use planning and approval systems will limit municipal council decision making authority and public consultation.
Furthermore, to limit municipalities from requesting or hosting additional public meetings beyond those that are required under the Planning Act undermines the very critical component of good planning. Public consultation is vital to proper planning, especially within existing communities.
The Task Force believes that by cutting red tape, developers can build faster and reduce costs, and they suggested legislating timelines at each stage of the provincial and municipal review process, including site plan, minor variance and provincial reviews. They also suggest deeming applications approved if the legislated response time is exceeded, which, in my view, is troublesome. I am concerned because each application is different with various contributing factors for missed deadlines, including sometimes, the Province’s own delayed reply to circulations. So how is this fair?
And to suggest waiving development charges and parkland cash-in-lieu and charging only modest connection fees for all infill residential projects of up to 10 units or for any development where no new material infrastructure will be required is erroneous in my opinion. Municipalities rely on development charges to develop required infrastructures to meet the needs of growth. This recommendation, if approved, will severely impact on municipality’s service levels.
These are just some of the more glaring issues that I have picked out from the 55 recommendations the Task Force has made. I truly hope that if the Province is willing to work with local municipalities to increase housing supply, they need to consider each of these recommendations seriously and take into consideration whether it will support “good planning” or not.
It is our understanding that legislative amendments are expected to be announced in the Spring by the Province, however, specific details of which recommendations will be acted on by the Province is unknown to us. In the meantime, I encourage you to review the report and make your comments known to your local MPP.