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It’s official — Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force report has been published.

In its 33 pages, the Task Force report details five key areas that focus on building housing, reducing red tape and lowering development costs, with an overall goal of adding 1.5 million homes to the province over the next 10 years to address home supply shortages.

The Ontario Task Force, which is chaired by Jake Lawrence, CEO and group head of Global Banking and Markets at Scotiabank, comprises nine individuals who were appointed in December 2021 to provide recommendations on opportunities to address housing affordability in Ontario.

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“Everyone has a role to play in addressing the housing supply crisis,” said Steve Clark, Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in a press release. “As our government consults with municipalities, the public, and industry leaders and experts, we are balancing these perspectives to develop practical, forward-thinking policies that unlock and fast-track all types of housing for all types of Ontarians.”

Here are some key findings from the Task Force’s report, along with reactions from industry stakeholders.

Section One: Building more homes

To fix the housing crisis, the report highlights the need for an “intense focus and a clear goal,” one that brings together federal support, provincial legislation and municipal policies.

Since 2018, housing completions have increased every year, but this is not enough to keep up with the existing shortage, the report states.

“But we are still 1.2 million homes short when compared to other G7 countries and our population is growing,” said the report. “The goal of 1.5 million homes feels daunting – but reflects both the need and what is possible. In fact, throughout the 1970s Ontario built more housing units each year than we do today.”

With that, the report outlines two clear priorities: establishing a provincial goal of 1.5 million new homes in a decade, and amending the Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statement, and Growth Plans to establish “growth in the full spectrum of housing supply,” and “intensification within existing built-up areas,” of municipalities as the most important housing priorities.

Bob Schickedanz, president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), commented that the report details policies that the OHBA has been calling on to “make it faster to bring new housing to market.”

Section Two: Finding more land to build on

While geographical constraints like the Greenbelt and Lake Ontario can make it tricky to build, the report notes that a shortage of land isn’t the issue, rather there needs to be a better use of available land. For instance, 70 per cent of land zoning for housing in Toronto is limited to single-detached or semi-detached buildings.

Based on feedback from planners, municipal councillors and developers, the report notes that as-of-right zoning – the ability to by-pass consultations and zoning by-law amendments – is the “most effective tool in the provincial toolkit.”

The report outlines recommendations to limit exclusionary zoning in municipalities by permitting as-of-right residential housing up to four units and four storeys on a single residential lot.

Some of the other recommendations include allowing as-of-right conversion of underutilized commercial properties to residential or mixed-residential and commercial use; permitting as-of-right secondary suites, garden suites and laneway houses province-wide; permitting as-of-right zoning of six to 11 storeys with no minimum parking requirements on any streets utilized by public transit.

The report details efforts to mitigate NIMBY sentiments, which tend to delay or prevent new homes from being created. According to some mayors and councillors, there have been calls for “limits on public consultations and more as-of-right zoning.” The report also states that individual councillors can withdraw delegation when there is local opposition, which creates an electoral incentive for a councillor to delay or stop a housing proposal. More Neighbours Toronto, a volunteer-led YIMBY group, is attributed in the report and explains that “the most vocal opponents usually don’t represent the majority in a neighbourhood.”

To limit opposition and politicization of housing projects, the Task Force recommends establishing province-wide zoning standards; exempting all projects of 10 units or less that conform to the Official Plan from site plan approval and public consultation; limiting municipalities from requesting or hosting additional public meetings beyond those required under the Planning Act.

In a press release, More Neighbours Toronto encouraged the province to enact “the breadth of these recommendations as soon as possible,” ahead of June’s provincial election.

Section Three: Cutting back on red tape

When comparing 23 Canadian cities, Ontario’s development approval timelines average​​ 20 to 24 months, according to data gathered from the Building Industry and Land Development Association’s (BILD) Municipal Benchmarking Study.

Too much complexity in the planning process, too many studies and duplicative municipal reviews are a few of the causes that created problems in the approval system, the report explains. In another 2020 study provided by BILD, the report explains that every month an approval is delayed, it adds on an average of $1.46 per square foot to the cost of a home.

CEO of the West End Home Builders’ Association, Michael Collins-Williams, touched on a few of the proposed changes, including the Task Force’s proposal to allow wood construction of up to 12 storeys to encourage more use of forestry products and reduce building costs.

The Task Force recommends a “common sense,” approach to construction costs, which involves legislating timelines at each stage of the provincial and municipal review process and providing funding for the creation of “approvals facilitators” that can resolve conflicts to speed up timelines.

The report also tackles the ​​Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which has a load of 1,300 unresolved cases, a reflection of the “low barrier to launching an appeal and the minimal risks if an appeal is unsuccessful.” Changes to the OLT by the Task Force would involve removing the right of appeal for projects with at least 30 per cent affordable housing for at least 40 years, requiring a $10,000 fee for third-party appeals and requiring appellants to seek permission of the OLT while demonstrating that an appeal has merit with evidence.

Section Four: Lowering building and development costs

In Ontario, the cost to build housing has soared, which includes government fees. In some municipalities, development charges have increased as high as 900 per cent in less than 20 years, according to the report, which disincentivizes the creation of affordable housing.

The Task Force would seek to mitigate the problem by waiving development charges and parkland cash-in-lieu on all infill residential projects up to 10 units and charging only “modest connection fees.” Development charges would also be waived on all affordable housing guaranteed to be affordable for 40 years.

Despite population growth, less than 15 per cent of Toronto’s purpose-built rentals were constructed over the last 40 years. Purpose-built rental projects “don’t make economic sense for builders and investors,” as taxes can be greater than condos or other ownership housing. As a result, the report suggests aligning property taxes for purpose-built rental with those of condos and low-rise homes.

Mike Moffatt, senior director of policy and innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute and assistant professor at Western University’s Ivey Business School, noted via Twitter that the Task Force’s report does not mention future population growth by international students.

When it comes to homeownership, the Task Force says it examined a range of models that are working to help aspiring first-time home buyers, including shared equity, rent-to-own and land lease models.

To support new homeownership options, the report outlines suggestions to extend the maximum period for land leases and eliminate or reduce tax disincentives to housing growth. There would also be plans to fund pilot projects that create pathways to homeownership for Black, Indigenous and marginalized people as well as first-generation homeowners.

Section Five: Growing housing supply

As the report points out, the province’s promise to deliver 1.5 million homes over 10 years cannot be achieved without the infrastructure to support such properties. Water systems, roads, sidewalks, fire stations and other resources are needed to provide for new developments. Additionally, skilled trades people are needed to build homes and the required infrastructure.

Implementing a municipal services corporation utility model, improving funding for colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeships, and encouraging the federal government to adjust the immigration points system to favour trades are a few of the recommendations the Task Force has outlined.

A Ontario Housing Delivery Fund — where the federal government would match funding — has also been suggested in order to reward housing growth that meets or exceeds provincial targets and the removal of exclusionary zoning practices. The Task Force also put forward proposals to digitize and modernize the approvals processes, fund adoption of e-permitting systems and resume reporting on housing data.

In a press release, Kevin Crigger,  president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, welcomed the recommendations from the Task Force, citing that for too long, housing policies have only focused on the short term.

“Governments at all levels must take coordinated action to increase supply in the immediate term to begin addressing the supply challenges of today, and to work towards satisfying growing demand in the future,” said Crigger.

To read the full report and all of its recommendations, click here.

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