Toronto City Council voted on Thursday to ask the Ontario government to suspend its new sweeping housing bill until the end of January to allow the province to consult the public, consider alternatives and analyze their impact.
The Council also decided to ask the county not to proceed with plans under Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 that would reduce development fees levied on builders to pay for infrastructure needed for new development.
According to staff, the city will lose an estimated $230 million a year in development costs, community contributions and parkland fees if the law passes. That money will be used to pay for the growth, city officials told the council on Thursday. Mayor John Tory along with several other council members spoke out against the measure, saying the city simply cannot afford to lose $230 million in revenue a year, and that the bill would undermine the city’s affordable housing programs.
“They take money that would otherwise have come to us to pay for growth, and leave it in the hands of the developers and leave us with the bill for all the infrastructure and other things that need to be done to enable growth and growth build entire strong communities. That’s what’s going on here,” Tory said.
Tory said the bill should be amended to preserve existing city policies that allow for “responsible growth.” The mayor said discussions with the county on the bill continue, but that the council should speak with one voice about her concerns.
City officials said their concerns about the bill are “wide-ranging” because it proposes major changes to the planning and development system under which municipalities in Ontario operate. Staff warned the council that the revenue it loses is currently paying for sewers, sidewalks and streets serving new homes.
Bill to hurt Toronto’s affordability, staff say
According to the Ontario government, the bill would create a foundation upon which 1.5 million homes could be built over the next 10 years.
In a press release dated Oct. 25, Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said: “Our government is delivering on our commitment to the people of Ontario by reducing delays and red tape to get more homes built faster.”
The bill has not yet passed its third reading in the Ontario legislature.
But Gregg Lintern, the city’s chief planner, said the bill will hurt housing affordability in Toronto and work against the goal of creating more housing.
“While the thrust of the bill is commendable – we all want to increase the city of Toronto housing opportunities and housing supply – we must do so in a way that also supports the myriad growth we must manage in the city, infrastructure, the funding for infrastructure, the funding for affordable housing,” he said.
“This bill touches on so many aspects of how the city is growing. It is concerning that it seems to be leading us in some directions … that are contrary to the many efforts of the City Council over the years.”
The city staff report on the matter says: “There is nothing in the bill that forces a developer to advance construction approval or pass cost savings on to consumers; developers are selling homes at the price the market will bear.
In addition, the loss of revenue to the city would have a dramatic impact on the city’s financial position and ability to provide infrastructure needed to support significant population growth; as a result, the bill could slow housing supply, which is contrary to with provincial goals.
count. Gord Perks, representing Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park, slammed the county for drafting a bill that hurts housing affordability. Staff told Perks that the city’s homeless shelter system is “stretched” and that more pressure is “unsustainable” for the city. The staff also said about 30,000 Toronto households are three months or more in rent arrears.
“In some very specific ways, Bill 23 risks increasing the number of homeless people in the city of Toronto. What housing plan will make people homeless?”
count. Brad Bradford, who represents Ward 19, Beaches-East York and is the city’s newly appointed housing chairman, said the bill reduces the city’s ability to be sustainable.
“The way the regulations look today, we can’t support them. We want to build more homes. In fact, this council is focused on that,” said Bradford.
“But what has been put on the table today is a kneecap to this city, a kneecap to future generations, and limits our ability to deliver the affordable housing that will be absolutely necessary for our future success and prosperity as a city.” he added.
count. Ausma Malik said the bill is the latest example of provincial interference in municipal affairs. The bill would make downtown living even more out of reach, the councilor of Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York added.
“It is imperative that this city council stand up to the county for the rights of this city and the rights of our democratic institutions. The council must be united in the defense of Toronto.”