Overview of More Homes Built Faster Act
Summary of the Province's Newly Released Bill 23
In line with the Provincial goal of constructing 1.5 million homes by 2031, the government of Ontario introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act on October 25, 2022 which is proposing large scale changes to the land use approvals process in the province. The omnibus bill, which is currently on second reading, proposes amendments to nine different acts, including the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act, the Heritage Act, and the Conservation Authorities Act. Though the effect of Bill 23 is anticipated to be wide-ranging, this article will review the changes affecting the land use planning process. The changes will go into effect once Bill 23 receives Royal Assent. A summary table of changes will be provided at the end of the article, along with links to other helpful articles and the text of the Bill itself.
There are a number of significant changes to the Planning Act proposed as part of Bill 23. One of the most important changes proposed is to override municipal zoning by-laws to allow up to three residential units on one lot as of right, effectively ending single-family zoning across the province. The regulations do not necessarily eliminate zones that exclusively permit detached dwelling built forms. However, municipalities may no longer pass Official Plan policies or zoning by-law provisions that prohibit the use of three residential units in a detached, semi-detached, or rowhouse dwelling on a parcel of urban residential land (or two residential units plus one unit in an ancillary structure).
Another significant change to the Planning Act is to change the scope of Site Plan Control by expanding the development types that are exempt. Subsection 41(1.2) will exempt any residential development that contains ten or less units from Site Plan Control. This will likely result in more applications being able to go straight to building permit and could potentially reduce the number of Site Plan Control applications that municipal planning departments have to process. Along with the increased scope of exemptions, Subsections 41(4) and 41(4.1) will be revised to remove consideration of exterior design (except as it relates to exterior access to buildings with affordable housing units) in the Site Plan Control process. This will reduce the scope of review available to municipal planning departments with respect to site plan control applications. This change has the potential to speed up the review process though it is unclear how this will impact the relationship between planning and urban design.
Parkland dedication and community benefits charges have also been changed in the new bill, which may require revision to the City of Ottawa’s newly released Parkland Dedication By-law and Community Benefits Charges By-law. New caps are proposed under Section 42 of the Planning Act which would create a maximum cap on parkland dedication where affordable or attainable units are included of 5% of the land area multiplied by the ratio of affordable and attainable units to total units. Additionally, the maximum alternative parkland dedication rate for conveyances will be increased to one hectare per 600 net residential units instead of one per 300 and one hectare per 1000 net residential units instead of one per 500 for cash-in-lieu. The maximum value that can be dedicated is 10% for sites less than five hectares and 15% for sites more than five hectares. Second and third units on a residential lot will also be exempt from parkland dedication. Finally, municipalities will be required to spend at least 60% of parkland reserves every year.
Other notable changes to the Planning Act include the restriction of third party appeals to “specified persons”, which will generally be public bodies such as Hydro Ottawa. Public bodies or individuals who are not “specified persons” will not be able to register a third party appeal even if they have made an oral submission at a public meeting or a written submission to the municipality. The Minister will also have more authority to order amendments to Official Plans if they believe a particular provision adversely affects a matter of provincial interest. Affordable and attainable units will also be exempt from Community Benefits Charges. Lastly, municipalities with Official Plan policies regarding Protected Major Transit Station Areas (PMTSAs) must amend their zoning by-laws to conform with the new PMTSA policies within one year.
Development Charges Act:
The Development Charges Act also contains some important changes as part of Bill 23. Most notably, affordable housing units (defined as 80% of market rent/purchase price), attainable housing units, non-profit housing, and housing units established through inclusionary zoning will be exempt from development charges. Additionally, within the first four years of a new development charges by-law being passed, only 80%, 85%, 90%, and 95% of the maximum development charge that could be required will be levied. Purpose built rentals will also enjoy reduced development charges, with a 25% reduction for three bedroom units, a 20% reduction for two bedroom units, and a 15% reduction for one bedroom units and studios. Similar to parkland funds, municipalities are required to spend 60% of the development charges fund every year. Municipalities will also be limited to charging prime plus 1% interest rates on development charges. Finally, development charge by-laws are proposed to expire in ten years instead of five years.
Significant changes are also proposed for the Heritage Act in Bill 23. Most importantly, new regulations will determine how properties are designated and how properties can be included on the heritage register. Properties will now have to meet certain prescribed criteria (either criteria under Ontario Regulation 9/06 or other criteria which will be established in the future) in order for a municipality to include it on a heritage register. Properties on the heritage register that do not have a designation by-law passed within two years will be removed from the register, and cannot be added to the register again for another five years. Council will also have 120 days after publishing its notice of intent to designate to pass a designation by-law. The Lieutenant Governor also gains new powers to exempt public bodies from having to comply with heritage standards and guidelines if the exemption could advance provincial properties including transit, housing, healthcare, other infrastructure, and other priorities as may be prescribed.
Other Notable Changes:
Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act are also proposed as Part of Bill 23. Conditions that a Conservation Authority may apply to a development permission can no longer pertain to pollution mitigation or land conservation. Only conditions pertaining to natural hazards may be attached. Conservation Authorities are also not to provide a municipal service or program related to reviewing and commenting on a proposal, application, or a matter made under a prescribed Act. Finally, Conservation Authorities’ fees are to be frozen for a period of time. Changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act will allow the Ontario Land Tribunal to dismiss an appeal if they determine that the party bringing forward the proceeding contributed to undue delay or the party did not comply with a Tribunal order. The Act has also been revised to include broader language permitting the OLT to order an unsuccessful party to pay the successful party’s costs. Section 99.1 of the Ontario Municipal Act has also been amended to allow the Minister to limit or condition the powers of a municipality to prohibit and regulate the demolition and conversion of rental residential properties.
The proposed changes in Bill 23 are anticipated to change many key areas of land use planning practice in Ontario. The bill will provide more certainty to developers with respect to parkland dedication, development charges, and community benefits charges. It will exempt affordable housing from these charges, helping to incentivize development of more affordable and attainable housing. The proposal also dramatically increases the use permissions for single-detached dwellings, essentially allowing triplexes in any residential zone, and effectively ending single-family zoning. Modifications to site plan control rules will allow smaller developments to avoid the site plan control approval process and limit the scope of comments that approval authorities can provide. Limitation of third party appeals may also provide more certainty to developers and potentially speed up the approvals process. Overall, Bill 23 is expected to play a significant role in shaping the future of land use planning in Ontario.
The deadline for public comment, as well as the last hearing date, is November 17, 2022.
The committee of MPPs studying the bill will then meet November 21, until midnight, for clause-by-clause consideration, before it returns to the House for third reading and a final vote. Q9 Planning + Design will be following the changes as they make their way through the legislature. For more information on how changes may impact your property, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the summary presented herein has interpreted something incorrectly, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Summary of Key Changes:
Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act. Legislative Assembly of Ontario: https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-43/session-1/bill-23
Bill 23: A Re-build of Foundation for Housing and Planning Legislation. Gowlings WLG: https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2022/bill-23-a-re-build-of-foundation-for-housing/
More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 proposes significant changes to legislation. Aird Berlis:
Planning Regime Shake Up, What the Proposed Changes in the More Homes Built Faster Act Mean for You: https://cassels.com/insights/planning-regime-shake-up-what-the-proposed-changes-in-the-more-homes-built-faster-act-mean-for-you/