News   Jul 12, 2024
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OMB Reform

Many municipalities were slow with Secondary Suites, or in cases like Toronto, flat-out refused to allow things such as coach houses in their zoning.

I agree - and the Liberals changed it. Without getting too deep into "ideology," I'm simply saying it's extreme hyperbole to suggest these legislative changes are some massive sea change in affordable housing. They advance it in certain areas, no question, but much of that stands on the shoulders of the Liberals. We could quibble, no doubt, about the efficacy of Inclusionary Zoning, but the Liberals made it legal and this change "focuses" it for better or worse.

Both governments have taken actions. But neither in a vacuum.

Personally, I'm cynical about how much all this alleged red-tape-cutting will do anything for prices and the sames goes for the Development Charges and Section 37 changes. All a shell game from the developer's POV, I figure. IZ can work, but it presents challenges too. There's no silver bullet, no matter your ideology. Let's just be reasonable about what Doug Ford's government has accomplished here.
An interesting viewpoint from John McGrath:
Developers love the Tories’ housing policy. That doesn’t mean it’s bad
So the government wants to see larger units more suitable for families as well as the compact, transit-oriented development that provincial policy has preferred for more than a decade. And it’s going to make it easier to build rental apartments instead of condos by letting rental builders (and non-profits) defer development charges for five years (for-profit condos will still need to pay upfront). In Toronto — a city whose official plan, in theory, supports transit-oriented development and whose councillors have regularly decried the lack of new rental construction — this should be a winning proposal, right?

Wrong. The loudest critics of the Tory proposals thus far have been downtown progressive councillors, and it’s likely that a large majority of councillors — from the suburban right to the downtown left — will end up opposing the changes. After all, a majority on council voted earlier this year to express opposition to more aggressive building targets around subway stations, among other changes proposed by the province.

Could this bill be a step towards a gradual intensification of the yellow zone?

An interesting thread detailing the possibilities
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I haven’t read anything about the transitional provisions of the new OMB legislation, but I’d assume they’ll be given retrospective effect, given the Minister’s comments about wanting to avoid two systems.

I’d certainly hope so. While retrospective legislation is generally antithetical to the rule of law, it makes little sense in this case to invest the efforts necessary to develop a new LPAT jurisprudence, with all the uncertainty and legal expense that entails, for a small class of cases falling in narrow legislative window.

Addendum.. we may not know for a period of time whether they’ll be a limited group of appeals determined under the Liberals LPAT rules before the effective date of the Cons OMB reform legislation, as the Act leaves the transitional rules to the Minister/regs:

43.1 (1) The Minister may make regulations providing for transitional rules respecting appeals to the Tribunal under subsection 17 (24), (36) or (40), 22 (7), 34 (11) or (19) or 51 (34) of the Planning Act that were commenced before, on or after the effective date.
(2) A regulation made under subsection (1) may, without limitation,
(a) determine which classes of the appeals shall be continued and disposed of under this Act as it read immediately before the effective date, and which classes of the appeals shall be continued and disposed of under this Act as it read on the effective date, subject to such modifications to the application of this Act as it read before or on the effective date as may be specified in the regulation;
(b) deem a matter or proceeding to have been commenced on the date or in the circumstances specified in the regulation.
Here's the thing. The cost of housing is far too high. The money that Canadians put into housing would be much better spent going into productive things - innovation, entrepreneurship, investment, even retiring and moving somewhere else so someone more productive can take your place. Like, housing is the least productive thing a person can dump their money into, aside from consumer goods. Since people are forced to spend on housing and not doing more productive things, housing is a drag on the economy. The drag has consequences in a lot of areas, but a big one is higher taxes. Canadians expect a high level of services, and provision of those services would cost relatively less if growth were higher. High housing costs also have an inflationary effect on wages, or would except that Canada is importing so many people that it keeps wages low (but keeps demand for housing high, of course). If housing had been cheaper all these years, and the money had been directed into growth industries, Canada would be a more prosperous place. So, the questions is: why is housing expensive?

You can talk about wealthy foreigners, greedy developers, getting slammed with wave after wave of immigration, baby boomers staying put, and all the rest. But the biggest issues are (a) there is massive demand and far too little supply; and (b) the cheapest a place can be brought to market is still much more expensive than we need it to be. Okay, so what makes housing expensive?

Toronto and Ontario have taken actions in two broad areas that have rocketed the cost of building sky high: (1) created an artificial land shortage by parochial and often random zoning; and (b) loaded fees and processes onto builders.

1. It all starts when Ontario issues guidelines on intensification to Toronto, Toronto interprets these in the most narrow possible way, funneling development into a few narrow area, in pre-determined forms/densities and leaving 80%+ of the city land untouched, and Ontario doesn't challenge it. So, that's a pool of housing that's just locked in amber, that 80%, people enter that market and you get bidding wars and the rest because supply is fixed. Then, developers, knowing there's a market for scarce housing, bid up the few available properties upon which anything can be built, then they build out to whatever the lot is zoned for, always trying to get a bit more to make more money. This is the part people where people say "greedy developers!"
2. At every stage of the development process, the builder is absolutely soaked for fees - transfer fees, development fees, mitigation of this and that, contributions for everything under the sun. All of this gets passed onto the end buyer. Then, you have the carrying costs - you're talking years of dealing with the city trying to get your approvals, all the while you're paying interest and your money is tied up. Finally, there's all the extra charges to come into compliance with the city's predetermined vision for the site. The smart developments have internalized it: balcony, glass, box, etc., but most still want to add some personality, and that'll cost them.

Every single charge, from start to finish, is passed onto the buyer. That's how you get housing this expensive with the sort of economy Toronto has - it's maybe some Chinese at the margins, some places sitting empty, but that's it. And, of course, the speculators get in there for their sleazy cut.

Now, until a couple year ago, there was a way for the developer, if he had the money to hold out, to appeal the city's arbitrary plans, and get a little extra height and density, make a little more out of the site than what the city wanted. That's the OMB appeals/review process. Wynne killed that and gave the power back to the cities.

Doug Ford not only said he'd bring it back, he also said he'd legalize a whole bunch more housing elsewhere - with language forcing the city to allow housing in more than just a few arteries, possibly even prescribing minimum forms, talk of as-of-right construction of secondary units and carriage houses, and more.

I'll wait to see what gets passed, but here's the takeaway: contrary to what people like to believe, Toronto has been terribly governed for many years. It's not that the bureaucrats aren't good at what they do. It's the policy makers who are to blame. They have bad ideas that are frightfully well carried out. And they give far too much power to the Planning Dept. to run the city.

Ford could have gone far further, but this is definitely the right way to go.
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