The CANADIAN PRESS
The Ontario Government has announced a plan to audit – six municipalities to determine “potential or perceived” financial impact from Bill 23, a new provincial housing law.
Municipalities have been raising concerns about new rules that reduce and exempt fees developers pay on certain builds such as affordable housing and accusing that changes will tae $5 billion away from cities and towns.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark has expressed some skepticism about the impacts and will hire auditors to go over the books of Toronto, Newmarket, Peel Region, Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton.
“The province intends to use these audits to reach a shared understanding of any potential or perceived impacts of the More Homes Built Faster Act as regards changes to development-related fees and charges,” he wrote in a statement.
“These audits will inform the province’s efforts to ensure taxpayers receive maximum value for money and the best possible services … These audits may find duplicative spending on back-office supports that would be better spent expanding frontline services.”
Premier Doug Ford has specifically called out Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Newmarket Mayor John Taylor at news conferences for their opposition to the housing law.
“I think they believe perhaps the impact is not as great as we believe, so they want maybe to have an analysis of that,” Taylor said in an interview.
“The good news is this is the first important step in being kept whole … Municipalities are generally, in public and behind closed doors, very, very concerned about the financial stability of cities and communities across Ontario as a result of Bill 23.”
Clark has said the province will ensure there is no funding shortfall “for housing-enabling infrastructure” as a result of the law, as long as municipalities meet the housing targets he assigned them.
Crombie wrote in a statement that she welcomes the audit.
“Like many cities across the province, Mississauga is starting to feel the impacts of lost development charge revenues as a result of Bill 23,” she wrote.
“As Ontario’s third-largest city, this translates to a loss of nearly $1 billion in revenue in the next decade that we use to pay for new parks and infrastructure like roads, trails, community centres, fire stations, libraries, and other housing-enabling infrastructure.”
Crombie has expressed concern about making the promise of keeping municipalities whole contingent on meeting the province’s housing targets — 120,000 homes for Mississauga, for example.
There are a lot of factors out of a municipality’s control, such as labour shortages, supply chain issues, or financing challenges faced by developers, she said.
“Cities can speed up approvals and permits, but rubber stamps alone won’t build housing,” Crombie said.
Peel Region is also among the communities subject to a municipal governance review and Crombie noted her pitch to get her city out of the upper-tier municipality.
“(The) 120,000 homes in 10 years is an ambitious target and one I think we can only meet as an independent Mississauga, a city that is ‘right-sized’ to run efficiently and develop creative solutions to the unique challenges before us,” she wrote.
The government said the audits would also be used to develop future policies and programs supporting “long-term municipal financial sustainability and housing-related infrastructure investments.”