On December 16, 2021, Premier Doug Ford and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, will be hosting a provincial-municipal housing summit for Ontario’s big-city mayors and regional chairs. According to Minister Clark, the summit “will aim to identify further opportunities for collaboration as the province and municipalities continue to address the housing affordability crisis.” While the housing crisis was seen as mostly a GTA problem, it is now considered to be a province-wide issue as market prices continue to soar all across Ontario.  

Report Calls for an End to Exclusionary Zoning 

This week, in advance of the summit, the Toronto Region Board of Trade released a new report calling for, among other things, an end to the province’s exclusionary zoning policies to remedy this housing crisis. The report, titled, “Meeting in the Middle-A plan to end exclusionary zoning and tackle Ontario’s housing crisis” advocates for changes to Ontario’s land-use policies and advocates for “missing middle” policies. For reference, the term “missing middle” was a term coined by architect Daniel Parolek to describe “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.”

Action Plan for Provincial Government to Increase Housing Affordability 

The Report stipulates five actions to be taken by the Ontario government to increase such missing middle housing thereby increasing housing affordability:

End Exclusionary Zoning 

The Board recommends that through planning reforms, the provincial government can eliminate ‘Yellowbelts’ that only permit single-unit homes. Additionally, the provincial government could enable as-of-right permissions for at least four units in a building in all residentially zoned areas and consider designating a higher baseline (e.g., eight units and/or four to five storeys) for properties near transit stations.

Establish Standards 

To ensure that municipalities do not use other tools to prevent missing middle housing, the Board recommends that the provincial government set minimum standards for building setbacks, lot sizes, parking requirements, front doors, height, building depth, landscaping, and floor space index.

Broad Geographic Reach 

The Board argues that these changes should apply to all medium (30,000+) and large (100,000+) municipalities across Ontario, with different standards applying to different categories. According to the Board, this would help avoid inflating land values in a smaller targeted area, while also addressing affordability issues across the province. This would give municipalities an opportunity to customize regulations while meeting or exceeding the minimum standards.

Moderate Development Charges 

Currently, many municipalities charge higher development charges for missing-middle buildings than for single-unit homes, even though the number of people living at the property may not be any greater than the house had historically accommodated – creating a barrier to missing middle development. The Report calls on the province to require that development charges and fees for missing-middle buildings up to four units match the charges and fees for single-unit homes.

Create Affordable Ownership Opportunities 

The Report argues that missing middle housing can provide more affordable ownership for individuals and families which would help to broaden opportunities to build wealth. It calls on the provincial government to work to support co-ownership, shared ownership and community land trusts while introducing strata ownership tools (i.e., ‘condo-lite’ structure).

The Report notes that in British Columbia, for example, strata ownership is used to facilitate individual ownership of part of a building (e.g., a second-floor unit) and shared ownership of common property (e.g., driveways, foyers and backyards) through a legal entity called an owner corporation. Smaller multi-unit buildings can be subdivided into strata, which are less cumbersome than existing rules for condo corporations. 

Action Plan for Municipalities to Increase Housing Affordability 

In addition to actions proposed for the Ontario government, the Report suggests the following actions be taken by municipalities to increase housing availability:

Streamline and Accelerate Project Reviews 

The Report calls on municipalities to streamline and accelerate their review of projects outlined in the Report, thereby embracing their potential to enhance multi-generational living and improve sustainability.

Introduce New Fees 

Municipalities should introduce new fees for converting an existing multi-unit building (e.g., triplex) into a large single-unit house. Imposing a “housing elimination charge” for each unit removed would help deter such conversions, preserve existing multi-unit houses and provide dedicated funding to replace lost homes. 

Study Additional Tax Reduction Incentives 

The Report calls on municipalities to study whether additional tax reduction incentives such as property tax abatements could be offered for specific types of projects (e.g., affordable ownership, projects involving and/or serving historically excluded groups) in order to encourage an increase in the prevalence of these types of projects. 

By eliminating exclusionary zoning policies, Policy Director, Housing at the Toronto Board of Trade, Craig Ruttan, says there will be a host of benefits beyond housing affordability, stating:

“This framework would provide opportunities to help address systemic racism, maximize existing infrastructure, and deliver environmental benefits – it’s a winner across the board.”

With housing prices continuing to boom and homelessness on the rise across the province, it has become critical for the province to enact change to address these difficult issues. As such, exclusionary zoning policies have become a hot topic of debate and the Board is one of many voices calling for change. 

As announced in the Fall Economic Statement and as part of Ontario’s plan to address housing supply and affordability, the government is also creating a Housing Affordability Task Force to identify further opportunities “to get shovels in the ground faster, remove duplication and barriers, and make housing more affordable for hardworking Ontarians.”

Oakville Real Estate Lawyers Representing Buyers and Sellers 

Changes to the province’s housing policies could have a significant impact on residential and commercial housing. At Campbells LLP, our skilled team of real estate lawyers will continue to monitor the upcoming summit and changes to land use, housing, and exclusionary zoning policies. We provide a wide range of legal services related to buying and selling property and are here to meet your real estate law needs. To speak with a lawyer, contact us online or at 905-828-2247.