Bill 23: Ford’s Housing Plan is built upon a Field of Dreams

On October 25, 2022 Premier Doug Ford said that ‘Everyone’s dream is to have a little white picket fence.’ Meanwhile his government proposed Bill 23 that does nothing to provide for affordable housing and fails to build liveable communities.

Bill 23 is a complex piece of omnibus legislation that, if passed, will make a multitude of significant changes to numerous planning and development statutes, including the Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Ontario Heritage Act, and Conservation Authorities Act.

Critical voices have emerged to provide commentary on the Bill 23 proposals. We have highlighted three of these voices below. If you click on the headings below, you can read the original articles.

Most of the Things are Not Good

Kitchener Citynews interviews an academic voice from the respected School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. See also another article by Dawn Parker on liveable communities.

“There’s one or two things that are good. Most of the things are not good. They might create perverse incentives and unintended consequences,” said Dawn Parker, a professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo.

Parker said her colleague described the bill as “a wholesale dismantling of 50 years of planning history in the province.”

Parker’s key concerns include:

  • that the bill removes the planning process and takes away residents’ ability to appeal developments,
  • that the bill reduces requirements around municipal parks,
  • that the bill also contains changes to the powers of conservation authorities in the development process.

“The most important thing that I was hoping the province would do that they didn’t do, is allow municipalities to require inclusionary zoning, requiring affordable units across the municipality,” she said.

Four Ways to Undermine the City’s Powers

This CBC article mentions the City of Ottawa but the concerns highlighted are also applicable to the City of Toronto.

Joanne Chianello is an award-winning journalist and CBC Ottawa’s city affairs analyst who has written the referenced article.

“No one promised anything too drastic during the campaigns, but the moment the city elections were over, the provincial government blindsided municipal staff and newly elected councillors with sweeping new legislation that is expected to be passed in short order.”

Chianello identifies four ways the province is hamstringing local authorities when it comes to approving new housing:

Affordable housing to the detriment of city amenities

The new legislation provides incentives for developers to build affordable housing — a laudable goal — but one of the ways it’s doing that could rob cities of needed millions to build everything from roads and pipes, to libraries and recreation centres.

Less money for parks

The province also seems to believe that a way to make homes more affordable is to put less aside for parkland.

Overriding the Residential Zoning

When the bill is approved, residential buildings with up to three units will become an automatic right for a property owner.

Cities to have no say on design

A planning process called site plan control is usually the last step in a project before applying for a building permit. Site plan incorporates everything about the outside of a building — from landscaping to parking to building design.

“But the Ford government appears ready to steamroll over a number of municipal rules to make it easier to build.”

Government Housing Bill Fails to Build Liveable Communities

It is not surprising that opposition parties will oppose the proposed legislation. The Ontario Liberal Party puts the focus on liveable communities which is a common goal for many residents’ associations across the City of Toronto.

MPP Stephen Blais, Ontario Liberal Critic for Municipal Affairs and Housing says that “communities cannot thrive without the infrastructure that makes them livable places, such as parks, recreation centres, protective services, roads and sewer systems.”

The Ontario Liberal Caucus proposes the following amendments:

  • Require development charge savings to pass onto consumers, lowering the cost of purchasing a home.
  • Provide financial compensation to municipalities to guarantee the cost of building critical infrastructure is not paid for by property tax increases.
  • Invest in the green economy by encouraging the construction of green housing that moves Ontario closer to achieving its climate change goals.
  • Ensure communities consist of various housing types that suit the needs of Ontario’s changing demographics.
  • Safeguard the use of public hearings to provide new mayors and councillors with adequate time to give feedback on how their community should grow.

MPP John Fraser, Interim Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, says that “… we also recognize that Ontarians, of all ages, want to live in complete communities – communities that are safe, affordable, and allow them and their families to thrive.”

Next Steps

Many of the views and concerns expressed above align with the concerns of our local residents’ associations.

The provincial government has set a schedule for public consultation and submissions to happen over the next two weeks. The email addresses for submissions and can be found on the FoNTRA website.

We ask all residents to take the time to review Bill 23 and the background material provided above. ac.ot1716625898norot1716625898ardes1716625898@tnem1716625898polev1716625898ed1716625898">Contact us and reach out to your local MPP to express your concerns.

SEDRA will be providing a written submission to the Standing Committee of the Legislature and we encourage to provide their own submissions. There is certainly alot to complain about.

Together we can send a strong message to Queen’s Park.