Toronto·Analysis

Who are the winners — and losers — in the Ford government's new housing supply plan?

There's no doubt the real estate and development industries are coming out on top, while municipalities and housing advocates say they're losing out. Amid all the winners and losers, what does it all mean for Ontario residents?

Realtors, developers coming out on top, while housing advocates say many residents losing out

There's no doubt the real estate and development industries are coming out on top, while municipalities and housing advocates say they're losing out. Amid all the winners and losers, what does it all mean for Ontario residents? (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

While speaking to reporters after the province announced a new plan to boost housing supply, Tim Hudak could barely contain his glee. 

Wide-eyed and grinning, the CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association — and a former leader of the Ontario PC party — said the current Ford government clearly listened to his organization's recommendations, which came during a round of stakeholder consultations last winter.

"[We] put 10 ideas on the table on how we can make home ownership more affordable for average families," Hudak said. "And we're really excited because the government took up eight of those ideas."

Ideas like speeding up housing approvals, reducing red tape and controlling development charges funnelled to municipalities — it's all in the legislation. So are recommendations on building above and around transit stations, building more secondary suites, and building on surplus government land.

With that, one thing is clear: there are winners and losers through the province's housing plan, and there's no doubt the real estate and development industries are coming out on top.

So who's not?

Concerns raised by councillors, housing advocates

While Hudak had reason to smile, city officials from Toronto — and likely other municipalities — aren't so cheery.

"Municipal cost-recovery tools such as development charges must be left alone," reads the Association of Municipalities of Ontario submission to the winter consultations.

No dice. Instead, the province is overhauling those fees, 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.

"The interpretation for the cities is we're going to see less revenues," Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, a critic of the Ford government, told CBC Toronto on Thursday after the province announced the plan.

She's just one of the city officials alarmed by the changes — Toronto Mayor John Tory cautioned that taxpayers shouldn't be "left on their own" to pay for city infrastructure — and it's hardly the only area of concern.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, left, is among those raising concerns about the housing supply plan released by Premier Doug Ford's government, including a shift back to the 'old Ontario Municipal Board ways.' (CBC News)

Wong-Tam, along with other councillors and residents' groups, called for years to get Toronto out from under the thumb of the controversial, quasi-judicial Ontario Municipal Board, a body capable of ignoring council and resident concerns on development projects.

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 "old Ontario Municipal Board ways," as Tory puts it.

Both issues — changes to development charges and the LPAT — concern tenant advocate Geordie Dent. But what's more jarring for him, he says, is that the province didn't listen to his organization's recommendations to boost not just housing supply more broadly, but affordable units in particular.

The process was a "complete waste of our time," said Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations.

"There are things the government could have done today to bring thousands of units on the market today," Dent continued.

"They could've regulated Airbnb. They could've brought in a vacant unit tax. They didn't do any of it."

Developers 'won,' but what about residents?

Other organizations shared concerns before the province's legislation was even released.

In January, both the the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness noted the consultation process didn't touch on affordable community housing, including social or supportive options. 

And the focus on supply alone, both agreed, wasn't going to address the current housing crisis.

    "All [the province is] doing is actually making it cheaper for developers to build," Wong-Tam said. It's a sentiment echoed by her fellow Toronto council member Josh Matlow, who lamented on Thursday that the "development industry won."

    In Toronto, where cranes fill more of the sky than in any other North American city, there's no shortage of new supply already hitting the market — and yet an affordable housing shortage persists. (John Rieti/CBC)

    So, amid all the winners and losers, where do Ontario residents fall?

    It depends on whether or not the province's plan to boost supply actually achieves it. And, in turn, what type of supply it could create: Diverse options that are affordable and attainable for the masses, or developer-driven stock that's plentiful but out-of-reach to anyone but the "average families" Hudak cited on Thursday.

    It's worth noting the province has already earmarked more than $1 billion to repair Ontario's dilapidated affordable housing offerings and reduce the long waits for social housing through its previously-announced Community Housing Renewal Strategy.

    But some housing advocates worry another provincial change made months before this week's announcement could set affordability efforts back: the scrapping of rent control for all new units hitting the market.

    Like the rest of their plan, the PCs claim it will encourage development and boost supply; critics warn it could mark a return to sky-high increases for tenants.

    And in Toronto, where cranes fill more of the sky than in any other North American city, there's no shortage of new supply already hitting the market — yet an affordable housing shortage persists, leaving some of the city's most vulnerable residents on social housing wait-lists, on friends' couches, and on the streets.

    Until that situation improves, it's a loss for the entire province.

    About the Author

    Lauren Pelley

    City Hall reporter

    Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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