Ontario’s New Housing Legislation and Municipal Planning

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing passed the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, as a measure to increase the supply of affordable housing quickly by removing red tape, streamlining the development approval process and reducing development costs.

Picture of laneway with recently constructed home.
Laneways provide a great opportunity to add gentle density to some of Toronto’s mature neihourhoods.

Anyone who’s been following local politics during the recent municipal elections is probably annoyed and sick of hearing promises about getting affordable housing built. Although the cost of housing in major cities like Toronto has been skyrocketing for decades, the topic is yet again the “flavour of the week”. What’s even more annoying is how everybody has tried to leverage the issue to advance their own agenda. Just about every political candidate had made it a central focus of their campaign. Developers have tried to pressure municipalities for approvals claiming that increasing supply in the housing market would make it more affordable. Even the Premier himself has used it as rationale to push the strong mayor system onto municipalities.

Having briefly reviewed the legislation, it does have some promising potential to address some longstanding planning needs, such as the missing middle, by permitting gentle density on single-home properties without a zoning amendment, which can really help spark a long overdue wave of laneway development and utilization of excess open space in post-war bungalow suburbs in the form of granny flats and garden suites without NIMBYs getting in the way.

An area of concern, however, is the exemption of parkland dedication and community benefit and development charges for inclusionary zoning units, which takes away funding for new infrastructure and public amenities necessary to support the influx of residents that come with new development, especially higher density development, Schools, community centres and parks are needed regardless of the cost of housing, so I expect it could be an issue to come to light down the road.

Further, many critics are not convinced that simply increasing the supply of housing would improve affordability. There has been plenty of residential development over the past twenty years, yet rents and home prices have increased significantly.

Although not all is ideal, it shows that the Province realizes the urgency of the crisis and is trying to steer in the right direction, even if it means taking the wheel from municipalities.