Ontario passed a housing bill Monday intended to spur development but critics say it will lead to higher property taxes, weaken conservation authority powers, and not actually make homes more affordable.
The new law is just one move among many in a flurry of recent housing changes from the Progressive Conservative government, including plans to open some areas of the protected Greenbelt land to development and allowing the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to pass bylaws with just one-third council support.
Premier Doug Ford's housing push comes as the government attempts to get 1.5 million homes built in 10 years, while high inflation and interest rates force the province to revise projections for housing starts downward. Ontario expects to build fewer than 80,000 new homes a year in the next couple of years.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said Ontario is facing a "severe" housing crisis and it requires bold solutions.
"If we are truly going to build affordable housing in this province, if all the mayors and councillors who said during their municipal election they want to incent more housing opportunity in their communities, this is a way that the government has very clearly said we wanted to investigate," Clark said Monday after the bill's passage.
One of the most controversial aspects of the bill is freezing, reducing and exempting fees developers pay to build affordable housing, non-profit housing and inclusionary zoning units -- meaning affordable housing in new developments -- as well as some rental units.
Those fees go to municipalities and are then used to pay for services to support new homes, such as road and sewer infrastructure and community centres.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has said the changes could leave municipalities short $5 billion and see taxpayers footing the bill -- either in the form of higher property taxes or service cuts -- and there is nothing in the bill that would guarantee improved housing affordability.
The bill also limits the areas conservation authorities can consider in development permissions, removing factors such as pollution and conservation of the land.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.