January 26, 2022
Marcello Alaimo, operator of Exquisite Living, has posted some comments on the draft housing task force which is due to release the report and its 58 recommendations at the end of the month.
The task force tasked with finding ways to make housing in Ontario more affordable wants to scrap rules that make single-family homes the primary option in many residential neighborhoods, according to a draft report.
The nine-member Housing Affordability Task Force, chaired by Scotiabank CEO Jake Lawrence, wants to “create more permissive land use, planning and approval systems” and eliminate rules that stifle change or growth, including those that protect the “character” of neighborhoods in the province.
The sweeping 31-page draft report, which is making the rounds in municipal planning circles and could look very different when it is officially released on January 31, makes 58 recommendations.
It includes discussions of speeding up approval processes, waiving development fees for infill projects, the ability for vacant commercial landlords to upgrade to residential units, and the possibility of expanding urban boundaries “from effective and efficient way”.
It also calls on all municipalities – and building code regulations – to not just make it easier to add second homes, garden homes and lane homes to their properties, but also to increase the height. , size, and density along “all major and minor houses.” arteries and transit corridors” in the form of condo and apartment towers.
© Kate Porter/CBC One of the task force’s recommendations is to create rules that would circumvent community opposition to increased density in existing neighborhoods. 4 story complexes in all neighborhoods.
But perhaps the most controversial recommendation is to virtually do away with so-called exclusion zoning, which only allows a single-family detached home to be built on a property.
Instead, the task force recommends that in municipalities with populations over 100,000, the province should “allow any type of residential housing up to four stories and four units on a single residential lot,” subject to guidelines. of urban design that have not yet been defined.
According to the report, Ontario lags behind many other G7 countries when it comes to housing per capita. And housing advocates have long argued that smaller projects — duplexes, triplexes, tiny homes and townhouses — are needed in established neighborhoods, especially if the environmental and infrastructure costs of sprawl are to be avoided.
But filling and intensifying neighborhoods is often a tough sell politically.
“While everyone might agree that we have a housing crisis, that we have a climate emergency, no one wants to see their neighborhood change,” Coun said. Glen Gower, who co-chairs the Ottawa planning committee. So that’s really the challenge we face in Ottawa and in Ontario.
After last week’s housing summit with Ontario’s big-city mayors, reporters repeatedly asked Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark if he supported dezoning for single-family homes, as other jurisdictions such as Edmonton and major New Zealand cities have done.
Clark said he heard the idea but didn’t give a straight answer one way or the other.
© CBC Consulting. Glen Gower is Co-Chair of the Ottawa Council Planning Committee. He welcomes the discussion of housing affordability in the task force report, but admits it could be difficult to sell four-story, four-unit units in every neighborhood.
Reduce construction barriers, approval requirements
Many recommendations are aimed at making it easier and faster for builders to build houses.
According to the draft report, not only would a streamlined process get homes on the market faster, but the reduction in approval times would also save developers money that, in theory, could be passed on to residents.
The report cites a 2018 study by the Ontario Association of Architects showing that the costs of a 100-unit condominium increase by $193,000 for every month the project is delayed.
That’s why, for example, the task force recommends that all “underutilized or redundant commercial properties” be allowed to be converted into residential units without municipal approvals.
The draft report also calls for near-automatic approval for projects up to 10 units that conform to existing official plans and zoning, and goes so far as to recommend that municipalities “reject public consultation” for such requests.
The report talks about reducing what the task force calls “NIMBY” factors in planning decisions, recommending that the province set Ontario-wide standards for details such as setbacks, rules shadows and entry doors, while excluding details like exterior color and building materials from approval. to treat.
The task force would even eliminate minimum parking requirements for new projects.
Politicians say more than just supply needed
The report touches on a number of topics which it says are unnecessarily delaying the construction of new homes, including how plans approved by councils can be appealed.
He recommends the province restore developers’ right to appeal official plans – a power that was removed by the previous Liberal government.
And in an effort to eliminate what it calls “harmful” appeals, the task force recommends that fees that a third party – such as a community group – pays to appeal projects to the Lands Tribunal of Ontario be increased from $400 to $10,000.
© CBC NDP housing critic Jessica Bell supports scrapping exclusionary zoning, but says many other measures, including building more affordable housing, are needed.
That doesn’t sit well with NDP MP Jessica Bell, the party’s housing critic. who said, “My first view is that any attempt to make Land Court even more difficult for residents to access is concerning,” Bell said, adding that the NDP is asking stakeholders and community members for comment. .
The court can overrule a city council’s ‘democratically decided law’, she said, ‘and I would be very concerned if it cost a third party $10,000 to come to land court and present evidence valid”.
While she was thrilled to see the task force address zoning reform to encourage the construction of townhouses, duplexes and triplexes in existing neighborhoods – the so-called “missing middle” between single-family homes and condo towers – Bell said the increased supply is not enough to improve housing for all Ontarians.
“We need government investment in affordable housing,” she said. “We need better protections for tenants, and we need measures to clamp down on speculation in the housing market… We need a more holistic and comprehensive approach than what we see in this draft report right now.”
(Although the task force was tasked by the province to focus on increasing the supply of housing through private builders, it acknowledges in the report that “the shortage of affordable housing in Ontario has been raised in almost every conversation” with stakeholders.)
© CBC Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says he opposes the task force’s recommendation to allow the expansion of urban boundaries.
The expansion of urban borders is another concern
From his first reading of the report, Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner agreed with the zoning recommendations, but said streamlined processes needed to be balanced with maintaining public consultation and heritage designations. . “One of my concerns about my very quick reading of the draft report is that it talks about expanding urban boundaries…and I object to that,” he told CBC.
“We simply cannot continue to pave the farmlands that feed us, the wetlands that purify our drinking water. [and] protect us from flooding, especially when we already have approximately 88,000 acres within existing southern Ontario urban boundaries available for development,” he said.
Schreiner also said he is “deeply concerned” that the report discusses the alignment of housing development with the province’s plan for Highway 413 in the GTA. “I just don’t think we can spend over $10 billion to build a highway that will increase climate pollution, accelerate sprawl, make life less affordable for people, and pave over 2,000 acres of farmland. .