Bill 23: The More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022
February 27, 2023
In the fall of 2022, the Ontario provincial government passed the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23), which aims to meet the province’s ambitious goal of 1.5 million new homes over 10 years. The Bill bypasses many protections and powers afforded to municipalities and conservation authorities to promote and even incentivize rapid home construction throughout the province, particularly in high traffic transit areas. There has been significant backlash against the Bill, with many arguing that while the Bill will create more homes very quickly, they will likely not be affordable for Ontarians. Further, there could be significant environmental consequences to the avenues outlined for rapid home construction.
Given the severity of Ontario’s housing crisis, now compounded by effects of the pandemic, developing as many homes as quickly as possible is vital to ensuring all Ontarians have a safe home to live in. Bill 23 cuts red tape associated with development to ensure homes are built quicker. This includes changes to zoning regulations and limiting the number of approvals needed for smaller housing projects (10 units or less).
The Bill also supports the creation of multiple residential units (up to 3) on land previously zoned for a single home. These can take the form of 3 units within the same residential building, a home with a basement or in-law suite built in, and/or a home with a guest house/garden home. But while Bill 23 could most certainly spur the rapid development of housing across the province, it comes at the risk of several other consequences.
The bill does little to ensure the additional housing being built is actually affordable for Ontarians. According to Steve Clark, Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing minister, municipal charges cost the average homebuyer in the GTA about $116,900 on top of the price of a home. These would be scaled back or eliminated through Bill 23. But critics of the Bill have pointed out that there is nothing in the Bill ensuring that the savings will be passed on to homebuyers. And since these municipal charges go to paying for local infrastructure to support the new homes, the shortfall in municipal budgets will likely mean that taxpayers will end up paying more to cover the required costs.
The Bill also lays out the definition of “affordable” to be 80% of the market rate. Sean Meagher, a coordinator with Ontario for All, spoke to this issue saying that, “by setting the definition of affordability for home ownership at 80 per cent of the market rate, units that would have sold for a million dollars are now considered affordable and exempted from development charges if they sell for $800,000. Eight hundred thousand dollar homes are not affordable homes.”
Perhaps most concerning for Ontarian renters, the Bill will give the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing the authority to limit or even end rental replacement policies currently in place in many Ontario municipalities. These policies ensure that when an old rental building is demolished and replaced with a newer building, the tenants are ensured a comparably sized unit in the new building at the same rent they were paying in the old unit, and they are also given alternate accommodations during the demolition/construction period. Without these policies, tenants are at risk of either having to sign a new lease for a new unit in the building at a higher rent, or move away to somewhere with more affordable rent. Should these policies be dismantled, low income renters are at particular risk of losing stable and affordable housing.
The Bill also aims to utilize “surplus or underutilized” provincial lands, which can include areas such as Ontario’s Greenbelt, which consists of protected forests, wetlands, and farming space across southern Ontario. Conservation Authorities have been steadfastly against the Bill as it will chip away at these protected areas in favour of developing new housing, while also weakening their ability to manage water quality and protect Ontarians against natural hazards such as flood risks.
Where previously Conservation Authorities were not permitted to sell off conservation land for development unless given approval from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing or a provincial agency, under the Bill they will no longer require permission to sell off land. In fact, the Bill essentially overrides the Conservation Authorities’ ability to manage certain conservation issues, passing the responsibility on to municipal governments instead, and in many cases will even prevent Conservation Authorities from providing input to municipalities so that they can make informed decisions balancing development needs and conservation efforts.
In York Regions specifically, the Bill will see massive swaths of farmland and wildlife habitats demolished and redeveloped for housing projects. Impacting both York and Durham Regions, the Bill also aims to create a sewage tunnel through parts of the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine, and would actually exempt the tunnel from certain measures and evaluations that would typically apply through environmental assessments.
The More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 will most likely lead to unprecedented home development across the province which will certainly aid in achieving the province’s goal of 1,500,000 new homes built over 10 years. However, by jamming through as many homes as possible without carefully planning for the practical needs of Ontarians such as having new homes built near local transit routes, we will very likely see increased sprawl and decreased environmental protections hand in hand with the new homes built, all while contributing little or nothing to the affordability of housing.
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