The Government's Housing Bill 23 is a sweeping bill that affects the housing and building sector, renters, conservation authorities, development charges, municipal budgets, consumer protections, and more.
Bill 23 will build more homes, which is necessary to address the housing shortage. Bill 23, however, jeopardizes affordable homes, could make renting more expensive, permits massive urban sprawl, and cuts funding to municipalities.
Every Ontarian deserves to live in a home they can afford that meets their needs. To achieve that, Ontario must address our housing affordability crisis. Our approach must include building new homes, and having government take the lead and build more affordable and deeply affordable homes. We must also clamp down on investor-driven speculation, and ensure renters have strong protections and strong rent control so they can afford to live in safe and affordable homes as well.
ERO notice here, with links to various consultations related to this bill and other Housing Supply Action Plan proposals
Here's 5 Quick Things You Should Know About Bill 23
Renters living in purpose-built rentals are more at risk of being evicted. The government is giving itself permission to ban and restrict city rules that requires developers to return a tenant to their rent-controlled apartment after construction of the new bigger condo is complete. Thousands of tenants live in rent-controlled purpose built rentals across Ontario. Making it easier for developers to evict tenants and convert rentals to expensive condos will be disastrous for renters and private-market affordable housing. This is a terrible move. We need to build more homes, but not at the expense of affordable homes.
The government is reducing the capacity and power of conversation authorities to protect our environment and help ensure we build in a safe and sustainable way. Gutting conservation authorities will make it much easier for developers to build suburban sprawl on farmland, wetlands, and fields. Building suburban sprawl is expensive for municipalities as it costs more to provide services to new developments, and it will lock us into unsustainable transportation patterns.
The government is moving forward with changing zoning rules. Bill 23 allows up to three homes on a property in all neighbourhoods as of right across Ontario – provided the square footage of the building remains the same and the height abides by the local municipalities’ rules. This is a good move because it will increase density in existing neighbourhoods.
Should we do more to encourage more density in existing neighbourhoods? Yes. Should we strengthen renter protections to ensure long-term renters aren’t evicted and affordable homes aren’t lost? Yes. Should we do more to encourage the construction of affordable missing middle homes. Absolutely.
The government is also mandating that municipalities have one year to update zoning bylaws to reflect official plan policies concerning a major transit station area, ensuring that developments may proceed “as-of-right” instead of requiring a rezoning application.
Development fees are changing. Development fees are exempt for a second and third unit on a residential property, for developments that are built by non-profits and coops, and for housing that is affordable. The government’s weak definition of affordable housing are units that are rented out at 80% of average market rent for 25 years or more, or sold at 80% of the average sale price. At today's rates for Toronto, that works out to a bachelor apartment renting for $980, a 1-bedroom for $1157, and a 2-bedroom apartment for $1362.
There are also development fee reductions for purpose built rental apartments that are not protected by rent control– 15% for a one-bedroom apartment, and 25% for a three-bedroom apartment.
Development fee reductions to build affordable housing is a measure we support, but not development fee reductions for luxury rentals. There has also been no commitment by this government to help municipalities cover the massive cut in revenue they will now face, which will now need to be addressed by cutting services or raising property taxes.
- The Bill eliminates almost all third-party appeals to the Ontario Lands Tribunal. The applicant can appeal, usually a developer. A municipality can appeal. Third parties – such as residents or environmental groups – can’t appeal, unless an adjudicator gives them specific permission to do so. An adjudicator can also order the losing party to pay costs.
Bill 23 is a huge bill. I've shared some key pointers. Below is a line-by-line summary of the schedules for you to review.
If you want to share your written commentary on the bill or speak to this bill to MPPs in committee at Queen's Park, please sign up here.
Here's a detailed summary of the key sections in Bill 23
SCHEDULE 1 – City of Toronto Act
- Allows the Minister to impose limits and conditions on rental replacement bylaws enacted under section 111, which the City of Toronto uses to require the replacement of affordable rentals that are demolished or converted during redevelopment. It is unclear what limits the government is seeking to impose (it has launched a consultation), but this provision puts tenants at risk of being displaced from their neighbourhoods and threatens private-market affordable housing in purpose built rentals. cities (There is a similar provision that would apply to other municipalities — See Schedule 4)
- Limits site plan control in the same way as the Planning Act changes that apply to other municipalities proposed in Schedule 9, including an exemption from site plan control for residential buildings of 10 units or less, and a prohibition on regulating a development’s external design.
SCHEDULE 2 – Conservation Authorities Act
- Instead of requiring approval of the Minister before selling or disposing of land that was paid for by a provincial grant, the Conservation Authority need only give the Minister notice of the sale or disposition. (Not in the bill itself, but the ERO notice indicates that the province intends to require via regulation that Conservation Authorities identify lands suitable for housing development)
- CAs’ review and commenting roles with respect to planning and development matters within their areas of jurisdiction would be strictly limited to matters falling under their core mandate, such as natural hazards like flooding, erosion or droughts. The bill would prohibit CAs from reviewing or commenting on a proposal, application or other matter under a prescribed Act. According to the ERO notice, these statutes would include the Planning Act, Aggregate Resources Act, Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, Environmental Protection Act, Ontario Water Resources Act, Endangered Species Act, Environmental Assessment Act, Condominium Act, Drainage Act, and Ontario Heritage Act. (Schedule 9 includes additional restrictions on Conservation Authority roles with respect to planning and development matters).
- The Minister may direct the Conservation Authority not to charge certain fees for a specified period.
- Conservation Authorities will no longer be allowed to prohibit certain activities under section 28 relating to the use or modification of watercourses, wetlands, erosion and other matters if those activities are part of a development under the Planning Act and prescribed conditions are met
- Expands the controversial section 28.0.1, which allows the Minister to order a Conservation Authority to approve a permit for an otherwise prohibited activity if the Minister has issued a zoning order under section 47 of the Planning Act. This provision will now also apply to zoning orders made at the request of a municipality under section 34.1 of the Planning Act (ie: the “Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator” tool)
- When issuing a permit, Conservation Authorities are no longer allowed to attach conditions to mitigate pollution or effects on the conservation of land. The Conservation Authority may now attach conditions to mitigate unstable soil or bedrock. The Conservation Authority may continue to attach conditions related to mitigating effects on flooding, erosion, and dynamic beaches.
- The Conservation Authority has 90 days, instead of the current 120, to make a decision on a permit application for an otherwise prohibited activity, after which the applicant may appeal to the OLT
- Revokes the 36 regulations that govern each of the 36 Conservation Authorities. The government has stated an intention to replace these with a single regulation for all CAs.
SCHEDULE 3 – Development Charges Act
- Exempts the second and third residential unit created within a new or existing detached house, semi or townhouse (eg: a new basement apartment); as well as a residential unit created in an ancillary structure on the same parcel of land (eg: a new laneway house or converted garage), from development charges (see Schedule 9)
- Defines an “affordable residential unit” as being a rental unit where the rent is no greater than 80% of the average market rent, or a non-rental unit where the home was sold at no greater than 80% of the average purchase price
- Defines an “attainable residential unit” as a non-rental unit developed under a prescribed development program
- Affordable residential units that will remain affordable for at least 25 years are exempt from development charges
- Attainable residential units are also exempt from development charges.
- Non-profit housing developments (including co-ops) and residential units mandated under an inclusionary zoning bylaw are also exempt from development charges
- Development charges must be estimated based on the service standard that existed during the previous 15 years, rather than the previous 10 years
- When a new development charge bylaw is enacted, the municipality can only charge 80% of the maximum charge allowed under the bylaw in the first year, increasing this by 5% each year after that, reaching 100% in year five. This provision is retroactive to bylaws passed on or after June 1, 2022
- A development charge expires 10 years after coming into force, rather than the current five
- Development charges shall be discounted for purpose-built residential rental units, depending on the number of bedrooms (whether or not these rentals are considered “affordable”). A 3-or-more-bedroom rental unit shall be reduced by 25%, a 2-bedroom unit by 20%, and a one-bedroom or bachelor by 15%.
- Each year, a municipality must spend 60% of its reserve funds that are allocated to roads, water and wastewater services.
- See ERO notice here
SCHEDULE 4 – Municipal Act
- Allows the Minister to impose limits and conditions on rental replacement bylaws under section 99.1 (See Schedule 1)
SCHEDULE 5 – New Home Construction Licensing Act
- Strengthens the existing (but unproclaimed) provisions dealing with administrative penalties and fines (Note: this is the second time this year that the government has strengthened these unproclaimed provisions – see Bill 109)
- Clarifies the power of the Registrar to impose administrative penalties, and broadens their applicable scope to include violations of HCRA bylaws, including the code of ethics. Increases the maximum penalty from $25,000 to $50,000. Retains the current provision allowing additional penalties so the person can’t profit from the contravention. These provisions apply retroactively to April 14, 2022
- Doubles the fines for repeat offenders (fines for first-time offenders are unchanged)
- The Minister may direct the Home Construction Regulatory Authority by order rather than regulation, with respect to specified board governance matters
- Regulatory registry notice here
SCHEDULE 6 – Ontario Heritage Act
- Strengthens provisions allowing the minister to set standards and guidelines governing the heritage determination process for provincial properties. Now the Minister may give themself the authority to review a determination made under that process
- Allows the LG in C to exempt certain provincial properties from its own heritage determination processes if the exemption advances a specified provincial priority: transit, housing, health and long-term care, other infrastructure and other prescribed priorities. For example, had this power existed in 2020, the LG in C would have had the power to exempt the provincially-owned Dominion Foundry Lands from these standards and guidelines, and its total demolition may not have been blocked by a court injunction
- Allows the Minister to prescribe criteria governing municipal registrations of heritage properties of cultural heritage interest that are not yet formally designated under Part IV of the Act, applying retroactively to July 1, 2021.
- A municipality must remove a non-designated property from the registry if it does not give notice of an intention to formally designate the property within two years of the registration (or, in the case of properties registered before this provision is proclaimed into force, two years following the date of proclamation). And if the municipality has given such notice, it must pass a bylaw to formally designate the property within the specified 120-day timeline or else remove the property from the registry. Any property removed from the registry cannot be added back to the registry for at least five years
- The Minister may also prescribe criteria governing municipal bylaws concerning the designation of heritage conservation districts
SCHEDULE 9 – Planning Act
- Eliminates the land use planning responsibilities of the following upper-tier municipalities: Simcoe, Durham, Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo, York and other prescribed upper-tier municipalities. This means decisions about official plans, zoning bylaws, subdivision plans and consents within a region will now be made only by lower-tier municipalities. (Note: these upper-tier municipalities, however, will remain responsible for providing the infrastructure to serve developments approved by the lower-tier municipality)
- Limits the responsibilities and appeal rights of Conservation Authorities to only permits related to specified natural hazards (eg: floods, erosion, wildfires, etc,), and eliminates responsibilities and appeal rights related to non-hazards (such as endangered species protection or aggregate extraction)
- Requires municipal official plans and zoning bylaws to allow an existing detached home, semi or rowhouse to be divided into up to three residential units, up from the current two. If there is an ancillary residential unit (eg: a converted garage or a laneway house), the maximum number of units in the main structure is still two. Official plan policies and zoning bylaws to enable such additional residential units cannot be appealed, and existing policies and bylaws that prohibit such units are void. The Minister may prescribe requirements and standards with respect to zoning bylaws to enable such units. Existing municipal zoning concerning the height or floor area of these structures is not affected; so, these changes would not enable, for example, a bungalow to be replaced as-of-right with a three-storey duplex in a neighbourhood where the maximum zoned height is two storeys, or the maximum zoned floor area allows only smaller structures. The official plan or zoning bylaw shall not require more than one parking space for each residential unit and shall not specify a minimum floor area for each unit. Municipal parkland dedication policies and development charge bylaws do not apply to these units.
- Municipalities have one year to update zoning bylaws to reflect official plan policies concerning a major transit station area, ensuring that developments may proceed “as-of-right” instead of requiring a rezoning application
- Third party appeal rights of official plans, zoning bylaws, minor variances, subdivision plans and consents are restricted further. Currently, any person who commented on a proposal before council has the right to appeal a municipal decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. Now, only “specified persons” will have third party appeal rights, ie: affected utilities, OPG, Hydro One, railways, managers of hazardous materials and telecommunication companies. A public body that commented on a proposal before council may also appeal unless it is an upper-tier municipality without planning responsibilities or a conservation authority commenting on a non-hazard matter.
- A request to amend an official plan or zoning bylaw to enable an aggregate pit or quarry will no longer need to wait at least two years following the adoption of the plan
- The minister may directly amend an official plan if they believe the plan is likely to adversely affect a matter of provincial interest. Currently the minister must first give the municipality an opportunity to make the necessary changes
- Municipalities must waive community benefits charges and parkland dedications for the percentage of a development that is “affordable” or “attainable” residential units as defined under the Development Charges Act (see Schedule 3), as well as residential units required under an inclusionary zoning bylaw
- No site plan control is required for the development of a residential building on a parcel of land that will have 10 or fewer residential units
- The exterior design of the development, including the “character, scale, appearance and design features of buildings, and their sustainable design” can no longer be subject to site plan control. The exterior appearance of the development’s elements, facilities, works, and adjoining highways are not subject to site plan control, unless the appearance affects health, safety, accessibility or the protection of adjoining lands. It is unclear what these changes might mean for the Toronto Green Standard or the City’s BirdSafe Site plan control may still regulate exterior design as it relates to access to affordable housing units within the building (eg: the municipality may still prohibit “poor doors”).
- Public meetings are no longer needed prior to a municipal decision on a subdivision plan
- ERO notice here