Government Bill 109, The More Homes for Everyone Act, stated purpose is to speed up housing construction. Among other things, the Act formalizes the MZO process and sets up penalties municipalities will face if they do not approve site plans and zoning amendments within a set timeframe.
Read the debate in the legislature.
For the policy fans among us, here’s a more complete summary of the five schedules in the Bill.
SCHEDULE 1 – City of Toronto Act
- Extends the approval deadline for site plan applications from 30 days to 60 days
- Within 30 days after a site plan application has been submitted and the fee paid, the City shall give notification as to whether the application is complete, and if not, what information or materials are missing. The approval deadline countdown does not begin until the application is complete and the fee paid. Disputes concerning the completeness of an application may be adjudicated by the Ontario Land Tribunal
- City council must delegate site plan control area approvals to staff. Currently, the City may delegate such approvals, but is not required to do so
- The City must refund 50% of the site plan application fee if it does not approve the application within 60 days. The refund increases to 75% if there is no approval within 90 days, and to 100% if there is no approval within 120 days.
- The refund seems to apply even if the City decides to reject an application that is complete but unacceptable.
SCHEDULE 2 – Development Charges Act
- Makes technical amendments to the provisions governing how the municipality shall publish the annual financial statement related to development charges
- More info here
SCHEDULE 3 – New Home Construction Licensing Act
- Allows the Registrar to take action in response to a contravention without first receiving a complaint
- Increases the maximum fine for violating the code of ethics from $25,000 to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for non-individuals. Increases the maximum administrative penalty from $10,000 to $25,000
- Fines for code of ethics violations, court-ordered penalties for offences and assessor-ordered administrative penalties may be increased even higher up to the amount of the monetary benefit derived from the violation or contravention
- The Minister may make regulations governing fines imposed by the discipline committee or the appeal committee
- This could allow the government to impose greater consequences on builders who sign purchase agreements for pre-construction homes but then try to alter the terms of the deal later on to make more money
- More info here
SCHEDULE 4 – Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act
- Allows the LG in C to make regulations extending the time of expiration of a warranty, including conditions for such an expiration, for items that remain missing or unfinished after the date on a Notice of Completion
- This potentially addresses an issue identified in the Auditor General’s 2018 report on the Tarion Warranty Corporation, where a builder might issue a Notice of Completion (allowing the owner to take possession) while there are still unfinished items. Despite the unfinished items, the warranty expiry clock starts counting down upon possession. By the time the builder actually finishes these last items, the warranty period may be nearly over, and so the owner would be denied a full warranty for these late items.
- More info here
SCHEDULE 5 – Planning Act
- Allows the minister to retroactively defer a decision about whether to approve an official plan or official plan amendment beyond the current 120 days. The minister may also refer such official plan matters to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
- This would allow Steve Clark to refer Hamilton’s decision to rein in sprawl and grow within its existing urban boundaries to the OLT, as the government confirmed it planned to do
- This new power would also allow Steve Clark to avoid making a decision about whether to approve York Region’s controversial ROPA 7 until after the election. ROPA 7 was requested by prominent developer and PC donor Silvio DeGasperis (TACC Construction) and other members of the Block 41 Landowners Group, and would allow for the destruction of prime farmland in the Greenbelt by converting it to an urban park. TACC had already received an MZO for its adjacent lands on the other side of the Greenbelt boundary.
- The municipality must refund 50% of a rezoning application application fee if it does not make a decision within the statutory deadline (90 days, or 120 days if concurrent with an official plan amendment application). The refund increases to 75% if there is no decision within 30 days after that, and increases again to 100% if there is no approval within 60 days after that. As written, this would seem to create an incentive for municipalities to simply reject zoning applications and send the matter to the already-backlogged Ontario Land Tribunal, which would mean longer processes, not shorter.
- Creates a new process for municipal requests of Minister’s Zoning Orders, to be called the “Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator.”
- Currently, municipal MZO requests can be walked on at a council meeting and approved without public notice or consultation. Some municipal MZO requests have been approved during closed council meetings. Now, there must be some notification and some public consultation, as determined by the municipality, prior to a council resolution or by-law formally requesting the MZO.
- The Minister must issue a guideline for such requests, but the posted draft guideline basically restates the minimal notification and consultation requirements already given in the bill.
- The Minister may choose to accept or reject the MZO request, and may amend the proposed MZO as the Minister sees fit. As is currently the case with regular MZOs, there is no guarantee that what a municipality requests is what a municipality will get.
- Once made, only the minister would be allowed to change or revoke the MZO.
- In short, this is simply a minor formalization or “rebranding” of what is already happening with MZOs.
- There is no requirement for a completed planning justification report, analysis from municipal planning staff, or any other due diligence. And there is also no requirement that the MZO have the support of the regional municipality or the conservation authority (if the site is within a watershed overseen by a conservation authority). And the MZO does not need to conform with any municipal or provincial plan, and also does not need to conform with the Provincial Policy Statement.
- As is currently the case with regular MZOs, CIHA requests would allow a lower-tier municipality to request an MZO for a development that would force regional taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on water and sewer infrastructure, without the approval of the regional municipality. They would allow a municipality to fast-track a development that may flood homes downstream in a neighboring municipality, without the approval of the conservation authority. They would allow a municipality to fast-track a development that will use up the local groundwater and dry up local wells, and emit wastewater causing algae blooms poisoning the local lake, even though such irresponsible developments are prohibited under the Provincial Policy Statement.
- Requires any municipality with a Community Benefits Charge bylaw (which allows municipalities to charge developers for certain growth-related services and infrastructure that are not fundable via development charges) to publicly consult and review the by-law at least every five years, and pass a resolution indicating whether a revision is needed. Failure to do so results in the expiry of the by-law, and a new by-law will need to be passed in order for the municipality to charge developers for community benefits. The need to continually review CBC bylaws would put additional pressure on municipalities, with the risk that the bylaw might expire. Such pressure might be manageable and regular review might be beneficial, but the Housing Task Force did not recommend this particular change, and it is not clear what problem this provision is meant to solve.
- Applies the site plan control provisions that apply to the City of Toronto in Schedule 1 to all other municipalities
- Sets a special parkland dedication rate for “transit-oriented community” land designated under the Transit-Oriented Communities Act. The rate is 10% of the land area or the value of the land if it is five hectares or less, and 15% of the land area or the value of the land if it is greater than five hectares.
- Allows municipalities to reinstate subdivision plans that have lapsed within five years without requiring a new application, subject to specified limits
- Requires the municipality to report on prescribed planning matters in the manner required, including the required use of any prescribed data standard. The Auditor General and the Housing Task Force report both recommended improved municipal reporting on things like development applications and other planning matters
- Allows the minister to require that municipalities accept surety bonds for subdivision agreements. Currently, many municipalities require cash deposits as security for such agreements, in which developers must install site services and utilities. The Housing Task Force recommended mandatory surety bonds as a way to free up developer capital and accelerate construction. However, in its response to the Housing Task Force report, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario said replacing a cash deposit with a surety bond may increase financial risks for the municipality.
An NDP government will make housing affordable for all Ontarians by clamping down on speculation, strengthening protections for renters, protecting and building more affordable housing, and speeding up the construction of new homes that meet the needs of current and future Ontarians.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.