On February 8, 2022, the Housing Affordability Task Force reported to the Government of Ontario on the state of the housing market in Ontario. Its 33-page report makes 55 recommendations to remove barriers to building 1.5 million new, much-needed homes in Ontario over the next decade. An appendix to the report reviews the existing inclusionary zoning framework and makes further recommendations specific to inclusionary zoning.
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 medium, Ontario alone would need 1.2 million new units immediately. Moreover, in addition to its social impact, the housing shortage is negatively affecting the economy: as the report notes, Toronto’s round-trip travel time, the longest in North America at 96 minutes, makes it difficult for many companies to attract new employees.
The task force’s 55 recommendations aim to address the housing shortage by creating the conditions necessary to reach a target of 1.5 million new housing units within 10 years. The recommendations are divided into 5 categories:
- Need more density – Inefficient land use, particularly near transportation corridors, is a major problem in Ontario that can be addressed, in part, by limiting the ability of municipalities to engage in exclusionary zoning.
- Reduce and rationalize urban planning rules – Given that inconsistent and sometimes onerous municipal design requirements can create significant barriers to the provision of new housing, the report proposes the adoption of simplified and uniform provincial urban design standards;
- Depoliticize the process and reduce red tape – The task force recommends a number of measures to reduce barriers to approvals that stem from what the report describes as excessive municipal consultation processes and the politicization of technical issues such as heritage designations – these measures include the restoration of the developer’s right to appeal official plans and comprehensive municipal reviews;
- Repair the Ontario Lands Tribunal – Delays at the BTA are slowing the pace of approvals, with a current backlog of over 1,000 cases, so the task force is recommending (among other measures) new powers to discourage the use of the appeals process as a tactic delaying and prioritizing cases that would rapidly increase housing supply;
- Supporting municipalities that commit to transforming the system – The report recommends financial incentives for Ontario municipalities that support growth in housing supply, in the form of an Ontario Housing Benefit Fund that would reward success in mitigating the housing shortage.
As Ontario heads into a provincial election campaign, reports say that the Ontario government could attempt to pass legislation implementing at least some of these changes before the current Legislative Assembly is dissolved for the vote on June 2, 2022.
As discussed in our November 2021 Update on Inclusive Zoning (“ZI”), the City of Toronto is the first municipality in Ontario to adopt a ZI regime. The report includes an appendix that considers ZIs in the context of affordable housing policy and makes a number of recommendations, including the following:
- Authorize compensation payments for IZ units – This is an important flexibility option that a number of municipalities have recommended to the task force;
- Require municipalities to use density bonuses and other incentives for ZIs –The City of Toronto’s ZI regime does not provide any benefits, incentives or compensation for the provision of ZI units – the task force recommends that legislative changes be introduced to require municipalities to use density or density bonuses. other incentives in all ZI and affordable housing policies that apply to market housing; and
- Allow municipalities without a ZI scheme to offer incentives and bonuses – This would give Ontario municipalities a wider range of options as they develop their affordable housing strategies.
Another option for increasing the supply of affordable housing is the increased use of surplus government land, an option which, although outside the mandate of the Task Force, is included in the report as an item worthy of consideration. be examined further.
We will closely monitor any legislative changes introduced as a result of the report. the Government of Ontario website has information about the initiative.