Sudbury

Proposed housing bill could be bad news for conservation authorities without changes

Ontario’s new housing legislation could create issues for conservation authorities, but the general manager of Conservation Sudbury says he’s optimistic some proposed changes could be amended.

Province wants to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years

Carl Jorgensen, the general manager of Conservation Sudbury, says he hopes the province's housing bill can be amended so it doesn't weaken what conservation authorities can do. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Ontario's new housing legislation could create issues for conservation authorities, but the general manager of Conservation Sudbury says he's optimistic some proposed changes could be amended.

Last week Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark introduced legislation to speed up development in the province to build 1.5 million homes in the next decade.

"Our government is following through on our commitment to Ontarians by cutting delays and red tape to get more homes built faster," Clark said in a press release.

The proposed bill would change conservation authorities' ability to limit development. The government said municipalities will no longer need to consider factors like pollution or land conservation when approving building permits.

"The municipality actually engages the conservation authority to complete a large section of its planning requirements," said Conservation Sudbury general manager Carl Jorgensen.

"And the province is proposing to strip that ability away from a municipality to reach out to its own conservation authority and have it engage on and work on its behalf."

Jorgensen said conservation authorities have two main jobs. The first is to consult with the municipality before a development starts, to ensure "hazard lands" like floodplains aren't developed.

The second is to provide feedback when developers apply for building permits.

"So making sure that the openings of the house are high enough if they're close to a floodplain, making sure the footings are on proper soils, that sort of thing," Jorgensen said.

The province's proposed legislation would also freeze fees developers have to pay, which provide financial support for conservation authorities.

Jorgensen said if conservation authorities lose that source of funding, they would need to rely more on support from the municipalities, which could translate into higher taxes. 

But Jorgensen said the government made some big changes to the Conservation Authorities Act more than two years ago, but then created a multi-stakeholder working group.

That group had representatives from conservation authorities, developers and municipalities and brought in some regulations to balance the changes.

He added he is optimistic something similar could happen in response to the new housing bill.

With files from Sarah MacMillan

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