Council votes to oppose Ford's new housing plan amid concerns over affordability, reduced revenue
Bill 108 aims to cut red tape, speed up approvals, to make housing 'more affordable'
Toronto's council has voted to oppose the provincial government's new housing supply plan, with city staff and councillors citing concerns about reduced city revenue, less control over planning, and a lack of "tools" to mandate affordable units.
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The new plan, heading through the legislature as Bill 108, aims to tweak more than a dozen pieces of legislation to cut red tape, speed up housing approvals, and make housing "more affordable" for both would-be home-buyers and renters.
But in a new report, chief city planner Gregg Lintern and city manager Chris Murray said there is "limited evidence" the legislation would make it easier or faster to build.
"There are no tools in Bill 108 that address head-on our affordable housing challenge," Lintern later told council.
He added only a small portion of the supply built over the last decade in Toronto could be deemed affordable, something the city defines as at or below average market rent — which is now close to $1,300 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, with certain areas of the city reporting rents far higher.
City numbers show over the last seven years, roughly 100,000 residential units went up across the city, but only around 3,300 — or less than four per cent — are in the affordable range.
"Bill 108 is a gift to the development industry," said Coun. Josh Matlow, who introduced the motion to oppose the plan.
"It allows them to build, build, build, but it doesn't ensure any unit is affordable to anyone in Toronto struggling to make ends meet."
"I think the notion we can just build our way out of the affordability crisis is a bit dishonest," echoed Coun. Brad Bradford.
Reduction in city revenue expected
City officials are also raising red flags about sweeping changes for development charges, which are collected by roughly 200 municipalities to fund infrastructure ranging from transit to community centres to roads.
The changes include lumping together several avenues to collect that revenue into one new "community benefits" fee — coupled with the creation of an overall, yet-to-be-determined upper limit on what can be charged.
"It is hard not to conclude it will be a reduction in our revenue," Lintern said.
Some fear that could make it trickier for councillors to create services and supports for growing neighbourhoods, from building community centres to mandating parks.
"There may end up being a bunch of luxury condos being built without park space, access to child care, or school capacity," Matlow said.
He called the bill "dysfunctional," and said it also triggers development applications to an "unelected, unaccountable body" instead of the city, by bringing back the processes of the former Ontario Municipal Board.
Two years ago, the previous Liberal government reformed it into the current Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), granting critics their wish for a more municipality-friendly system. Now, the PCs are keeping the name but reverting back to the system, which Matlow and others maintain favours developers.
Province touts 'comprehensive' plan
So how does the province respond to the city's concerns?
"Our plan is quite comprehensive to provide more supply," Housing Minister Steve Clark told CBC Toronto. "And while, perhaps, the city's report is not as complimentary as I would like, I can argue that's one municipality."
Hundreds of other communities represented through the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), he added, have given the plan a more "favourable report card."
However, while AMO's recent assessment of Bill 108 does note it contains "some positives" for municipal governments, the group also brought forward multiple concerns around various aspects of the legislation — including having second dwellings exempt from development charges and a return to Ontario Municipal Board-style hearings.
Municipalities have until June 1 to share feedback on the plan, though Toronto councillors are hoping the province extends that deadline.
With files from Mike Crawley