MORE HOMES for EVERYONE ACT (BILL 109): WHAT is at STAKE for OAKVILLE and our NEIGHBOURHOOD

Recently we published two newsletters and supporting background papers on growth and development in Oakville, with a focus on Midtown and Downtown Oakville, to help explain this important process to residents. In this newsletter and our attached background paper, More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022 (Bill 109): What’s at Stake for Oakville, we zero in on Bill 109, which received Royal Assent on April 25 before the public commenting period was closed, and on the Housing Affordability Task Force (HATF) Report made public on February 8, 2022.

WHY? With Bill 109 and the implementation of several of the many HATF recommendations, there is the real possibility that they will have significant and irreversible impacts not only on Midtown and Downtown Oakville (currently planned for densification), but also on the adjoining and established neighbourhoods. Although the Province did not adopt all of the HATF’S 55 recommendations in Bill 109, they will serve as the long-term roadmap every year for the next four years, beginning in 2022-23, with the goal of increasing the supply and affordability of “market housing” (i.e. homes that can be purchased or rented without government subsidies).

The HATF argues that the affordable housing crisis can be fixed solely by increasing the supply side of housing, and that Ontario must build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years, but fails to mention that since at least 2019, 250,000+ units (new houses, apartments) in the GTA have been approved for development but not built. This alone represents 17.5% of 1.5 million homes. WHY have these homes NOT BEEN BUILT and WHO BENEFITS from this inaction?

It is very important to note that the HATF also does not account for demand side factors which impact affordable housing: the current builders’ model where developers are permitted, to their benefit, to control the timing of housing construction and releases (i.e. the supply of houses), thereby fueling demand which contributes to escalating house prices; historically low interest rates; speculative investment; demand from population growth; and “panic mentality” to get into the market now or miss out forever.

What is at Stake for our Town and our Neighbourhood?

There is no evidence that Bill 109, the HATF recommendations, and other related pieces of legislation passed over the past three years, will improve housing affordability. In fact, the opposite may happen in Oakville with the following outcomes:

  • Erosion of locally planned growth and decision-making authority to be replaced by a one-size-fits-all approach dictated by the Province, resulting in uncontrolled growth and little or no regard to develop complete healthy and “livable” communities;
  • Increase in the financial burden on the town and taxpayers to subsidize developers rather than to reduce the cost of homes;
  • Limitation or elimination of the public consultation process, thereby making it more difficult or impossible for residents to have their voices heard or to appeal a decision;
  • Irreversible changes to the character of our neighbourhoods;
  • Limiting protections for the cultural and heritage aspects of our community.

 

Highlights of the HATF Report

  • The HATF targets established neighbourhoods as one of two most important areas for development, arguing that “exclusionary zoning” restricts housing and should be eliminated. It blames NIMBYism for blocking housing, increasing costs, and discouraging investments, as well as municipal councillors who “fall in behind community opposition.” It disregards the fact that Oakville’s official plans to meet the minimum growth numbers as mandated by the Province had already been approved by past and current governments.
  • With the implementation of new “As of Right” recommendations, developers can proceed “without municipal approval” to build, for example, 4 units and up to a 4-storey residential unit on any single residential lot and 6 to 11-storey residential units on any lot situated on a transit route (including buses).
  • With no local planning controls, higher density will result in the need to upgrade infrastructure (e.g. watermains, sewers, roads), services (internet, electricity), and the clear-cutting of trees to accommodate larger buildings. Ultimately developers will profit at the expense of the Town and taxpayers.
  • Arguing that “cutting red tape” will result in building houses faster and reducing costs and blaming municipalities for delays, one of the recommendations is to increase the filing fee from $400 to $10,000 for third-party appeals (for example from residents) to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), thereby serving as a deterrent to appeals.
  • Development charges (fees paid by developers) should be waived, for example, for infill residential projects up to 10 units, placing any related financial burdens on the town and taxpayers.

Highlights of Bill 109

While these recommendations foreshadow what may lie ahead, the following measures have already been passed through Bill 109.

  • The powers of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMHA) have been broadened. The MMHA can refer, for instance, official plan matters to the OLT which will remove local decision-making from elected official and communities and there will be no right of appeal.
  • Currently the MMHA can use Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZO) to deal with extraordinary circumstances, and these supersede local planning authority and do not permit any appeal. Since 2019, more MZOs have been issued than there were in total between 1995 and 2018 (see MZO Map).
  • The MMHA has been granted an additional tool, the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA), to expedite approvals for housing and community infrastructure. This does allow for more public consultation, but could be misused to permit developments outside of those already identified such as Midtown Oakville.
  • Bill 109 introduces a punitive measure against municipalities which could cost Oakville taxpayers, including residents and businesses, at least $2.9 million each year. If a decision on an official plan amendment, for example, is not made within legislative timelines, municipalities will be required to refund developers on a graduated basis. It should be noted that the process can be delayed for many reasons beyond the control of the municipality such as prolonged negotiations between the applicant, agencies, and the municipality; the public consultation process; engagement with Town Council; delayed or incomplete responses or submissions, possibly deliberately, from the applicants.

Bill 109 has enormous implications for our town and community. Please take the time to learn more or share your comments or questions with us at info@cmgra.org.