On February 8, 2022, the Housing Affordability Task Force submitted its report on the state of Ontario’s housing market to the provincial government. The Report and its Appendices make 55 recommendations designed to facilitate the construction of 1.5 million new homes in Ontario over the next decade. Among its proposals are measures to remove existing impediments to development, rethink the province’s existing inclusionary zoning framework, and reduce the costs to buy, build, and rent property.
The Task Force cites a Scotiabank study showing that Canada has the fewest housing units per capita of any G7 country. In fact, to reach even the G7 average, Ontario alone would immediately require 1.2 million new units. Furthermore, in addition to its social impact, the housing shortage negatively affects the economy: as the Report notes, Toronto’s two-way commute time, the longest in North America at 96 minutes, makes it difficult for many businesses to attract new employees.
The Task Force’s 55 recommendations are intended to address the housing supply shortage by creating the conditions necessary to achieve a target of 1.5 million new homes within 10 years. The recommendations are divided into 5 categories:
- Requiring greater density – Inefficient land use, especially near transportation corridors, is a major issue in Ontario that can be addressed, in part, by limiting the authority of municipalities to engage in exclusionary zoning;
- Reduce and streamline urban design rules – Because inconsistent and sometimes onerous municipal design requirements can create significant impediments to the provision of new housing, the Report proposes the adoption of simplified and uniform provincial urban design standards;
- Depoliticize the process and cut red tape – The Task Force recommends a number of steps to reduce obstacles to approval that arise out of what the Report describes as excessive municipal consultation processes and the politicization of technical issues such as heritage designations – these steps include restoring the developer’s right to appeal official plans and municipal comprehensive reviews;
- Fix the Ontario Land Tribunal – Delays at the OLT are slowing the pace of approvals, with a current backlog of over 1,000 cases, so the Task Force recommends (among other steps) new powers to discourage use of the appeal process as a stalling tactic and the prioritization of cases that would increase housing supply quickly;
- Support municipalities that commit to transforming the system – The Report recommends financial incentives for Ontario municipalities that support growth in the supply of housing, in the form of an Ontario Housing Delivery Fund that would reward success in alleviating the housing shortage.
While Ontario is heading into a provincial election campaign, reports indicate that the Government of Ontario may attempt to pass legislation implementing at least some of these changes before the current legislative assembly is dissolved for the June 2, 2022 vote.
Read more about the recommendations made by the Housing Affordability Task Force on the Stikeman Elliott website here.
Jonathan S. Cheng is an associate in the Municipal & Land Use Group. His practice focuses on delivering strategic advice and representation on a broad range of land development, planning, and municipal law matters.
Calvin Lantz is a partner in the Real Estate Group and head of the Municipal & Land Use Group. He is a Certified Specialist in Municipal Law (Land Use Planning and Development) and appears before administrative boards and approval bodies and agencies; including the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board), committees of adjustment, land division committees and municipal councils. Calvin acts for a broad range of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional clients.