Ontario Construction News staff writer
Ontario municipalities are raising concerns that the province’s new housing legislation could impede growth and download excessive burdens to local governments.
The sweeping bill introduced Tuesday by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark would freeze, reduce and exempt fees developers pay in order to spur building.
Affordable housing, non-profit housing and inclusionary zoning units — meaning affordable housing in new developments — as well as some “attainable” units would be exempt from various charges.
On Wednesday the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) said in a statement that the proposed changes “may contradict the goal of building more housing in the long term.”
“Unless fully offset by funding to support growth-related projects, reductions in these fees will shift the financial burden of growth-related infrastructure onto existing municipal taxpayers,” the association wrote.
Toronto Mayor John Tory says eliminating development charges could cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.
“What we can’t afford to see happen is to see one government make promises and pay for it with somebody else’s money,” Tory said at a press conference. “These charges we collect are not just charges that go into the general revenue stream. They are charges that are specifically allocated to things that need to get built under the principle of growth paying for growth.”
While he supports “the thrust” of the provincial legislation, Tory said he is “very concerned” about the development charges plan.
“We are in a position where we want to spur housing,” he said. “(New buildings) have to have sewers to take away the wastewater. They have to have water to supply those buildings. They have to have roads and transit to connect those buildings up to the rest of the city and those were and are paid for in part by development charges.”
However, during Question Period in the provincial legislature on Wednesday, Clark pointed out that municipalities have $8 billion in development charge reserves.
“We’re going to continue to work with our municipal partners,” he said in question period. “We’re also going to work with the federal government on their $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund. We think that would help municipalities as well.”
The government’s housing plan is aimed at hitting a target of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years. It also proposes to allow more units on one residential lot, introduce more housing density near transit stations, reduce the property tax burden for multi-residential apartment buildings, and pursue rent-to-own programs.