As I write this I am in committee, listening to Ontarians speak to Bill 23. Bill 23 is a sweeping pro-developer law that threatens affordability, public services, democracy, and farmland. As I read the hundreds of written submissions and listen to each speaker, I am struck by the enormity of this bill, and its consequences.
Here’s what we learned in committee
Municipalities, including AMO, the Big City Mayors, Toronto, and the Blue Mountains, are alarmed at the impact of cutting developer fees. Toronto is expected to lose $230 million in revenue, which can only be addressed by massive service cuts or tax hikes.
Regional municipalities are alarmed that they lose the power to decide where new homes and workplaces go, and the densities at which they are built. This power rests with the provincial government and the local municipality. For all practical purposes, this means regional municipalities no longer have the authority to curb sprawl.
Renters and housing advocates, including ACORN, the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights, Leilani Fahra, and ACTO, are alarmed at Bill 23’s threat to housing affordability. The Bill guts Toronto’s inclusionary zoning law, cuts funding to municipal affordable housing programs and bans municipal rental replacement bylaws which ensure a renter can return to their apartment at the same rent once construction of their building is complete. In other words, Bill 23 makes it cheaper for developers to turn rent-controlled purpose-built rentals into luxury condos, setting the stage for mass evictions and the loss of thousands of affordable rental homes.
Environmentalists and conservation authorities, from Conservation Ontario to Environmental Defense to CELA, are alarmed they will be banned from working with municipalities to protect the natural environment, and that municipalities will be unable to implement green building standards. This is a blow to our painstaking progress to green the building sector - a huge source of GHG emissions.
Citizens are alarmed that our democratic rights are being curbed because we are losing our right to appeal land-use decisions to the powerful Lands Tribunal, even though developers retain their right to do so. These concerns come from residents' associations in downtown Toronto, who have had more development approved in their area than just about every other postal code district in Ontario. There's also concern that genuine claims to protect heritage sites will be curtailed.
On Wednesday, John Sewell disrupted the committee because he hadn’t been given the chance to speak. John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto. He, and many others, couldn’t speak because the government voted down our motions to extend the hearings to accommodate everyone.
Governments are more likely to create good laws when they listen to people. A government that doesn’t want to listen to its citizens is a government that doesn’t care about us and our values.
There are some good measures in Bill 23. The Bill hikes fines on builders who build shoddy homes, eliminates development fees for non-profit and co-op housing, and speeds up zoning near transit hubs. Municipalities will be required to allow three homes on residential lots, increasing density in existing neighborhoods. Municipal approval is still required to increase the property’s height or square footage. These are moves in the right direction.
Here's what's happening on Monday
Clause by clause on Bill 23 begins on Monday. That’s when we go line-by-line through the law, propose changes to the bill, and vote yes or no on each of the law's sections. These are some of the amendments I am proposing:
- Give municipalities the right to prohibit and regulate the demolition, conversion, and renovation of properties so renters are better protected from eviction.
- A strong definition of affordable housing. A home is affordable if its occupant pays 30% of its income towards the mortgage or rent. An affordable home is a permanently affordable home.
- Strong inclusionary zoning legislation that gives municipalities more power to require developers build a percentage of truly affordable homes anywhere in the municipality and not just near transit stations.
- Allow municipalities to establish use-it-or-lose it policies so they can fine developers who sit on building permits, instead of commencing with development.
- Permitting the city to regulate site plan control if it relates to sustainable design to ensure the city keeps its green building standards.
- Sets housing targets based on income and minimum floor space requirements so Ontario builds housing that meets the needs of Ontarians, not just maximum-developer profit.
- Restore Conservation Authorities’ right to protect Ontario’s natural environment, and work with municipalities to help them do the same.
- Require the province to reimburse municipalities for revenue lost due to development fee cuts.
- Reforms to the Home Construction Regulatory Authority so it’s more accountable to Ontarians, and not just the building sector. Home buyers need recourse if they purchase a shoddily-built home.
- Oppose measures to restrict the authority of Conservative Authorities, reduce development fees for luxury rentals, and curb citizen say over planning.
UPDATE: It appears the Government is introducing the following amendments:
- Permitting municipalities to retain site plan control over sustainability provisions, meaning municipalities can keep their green building standards
- Allowing development charge bylaw changes to be retroactive to January 2022, instead of June 2022
- Allowing development charge bylaws to be accessed by developers who are building rental housing and already have building permits
- Government amendments seem to scrap the two-year timeout completely, allowing anyone to request an Official Plan or zoning bylaw change within two years of passing a new Official Plan, secondary plan or zoning bylaw.
- Retains third party appeals rights to the Lands Tribunal
- Permits section 37 agreements to be registered on title.
Here's the list of amendments we'll be debating tomorrow.
This will not fix the housing crisis
The Conservatives claim Bill 23 is all about fixing our housing crisis. That is categorically false.
There is no evidence Bill 23 will lower home prices or rent prices. There's no evidence this bill will make it easier for people to find a home and pay off their own mortgage, instead of an investor's mortgage.
Doug Ford does not need to harm democracy, pave over farmland, cut public services, and make life worse for renters to build new homes.
Doug Ford’s record at helping people find a home they can afford is abysmal. I give him an F. During Ford’s reign, the cost of buying or renting a home has reached record highs. The Conservatives have betrayed the Canadian dream that a good home can be found if you work hard. In Ontario you can’t even find a home to rent if you work hard - and if you did, the government has now made it easier for a developer to kick you out and convert your rental into a luxury condo.
Yes, Ontario needs to build up to 1.5 million homes to meet the needs of current and future Ontarians. That’s why we need zoning reform to build missing middle homes in areas zoned for development, government investment to build homes on public land, and a recruitment strategy to increase the number of workers in the construction sector.
The housing crisis will continue unless we also focus on the goal of ensuring every Ontarian has a good home they can afford. Ontario must invest in building affordable homes and supportive housing to meet the need, strengthen rent control and protect renters, and curb investor-speculation.
Thank you to the many of you who are writing letters, making phone calls, attending protests, joining advocacy groups, speaking out in the media, going to court, and persuading and encouraging your friends and neighbours to speak up and get active.
They have the political power, we have the people power, and people power always wins, provided we exercise it.