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Doug Ford’s housing bill has ‘nothing’ to guarantee more affordable housing, says report

Chief planner and other officials want city council to urge the province to put the “More Homes Built Faster Act” on hold until at least the end of July.
Nov. 23, 2022
David Rider

Toronto city staff have a scathing new assessment of Premier Doug Ford’s key housing-creation bill, saying it does “nothing” to address affordability while destroying the city’s ability to fund services for new residents.

When the new city council meets Thursday, it should urge the Ford government to put Bill 23 on ice until at least Jan. 31 so it can be fixed, and to scrap plans to reduce development charges the city can levy on homebuilders, the report says.

The assessment by officials including chief planner Gregg Lintern, made public Tuesday, sharpens and expands upon a city staff briefing note issued last week that warned the “More Homes Built Faster Act” could harm the city’s ability to build new affordable rentals and homeless shelters.

“While the intent of the Bill -- to create more housing -- is laudable, there is nothing in the bill that guarantees that additional housing will be built,” the report states.

The focus on reducing developers’ costs and approval timelines does not address complex factors including interest rates, financing and labour supplies, it says.

Nor does Bill 23 ensure any new housing is not too expensive for most Torontonians, city staff say, and threatens to undermine city programs underway to increase the supply of affordable homes for purchase or rent.

“There is nothing in the Bill compelling a developer to advance an approval to construction or to pass forward any cost savings to consumers; developers sell housing at the price that the market will bear.” the report states.

“There is nothing in the Bill to address the issue of affordability within the market.”

Data from showed the average asking rent for a Toronto one-bedroom has increased by 23.7 per cent in the last year, now at $2,505 per month. Local home prices have cooled but still average more than $1 million.

Ford’s sweeping bill is aimed at getting 1.5 million Ontario homes built over the next decade -- 285,000 of them in Toronto.

The premier says his “ambitious” plan is vital because “hardworking families are counting on us, and our government will do what it takes to get more homes built faster.”

Toronto isn’t the only municipality pleading for a pause, however, partly because Bill 23 would dramatically reduce development charges that local governments can levy on homebuilders to help pay for sewers, roads and other services.

“Changes to the development charges, community benefits charge and parkland levies would result in an estimated $230M annual loss in revenues -- or about a 20 per cent reduction …” and slow manageable housing construction, the report states.

“This significant potential revenue loss comes at a time when Toronto has real challenges with an anticipated $815M budget shortfall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and significant project cost escalation … and when our residents are struggling with higher inflation and borrowing costs.

“The revenue loss would dramatically impact Toronto’s finances and would be unaffordable for existing taxpayers to fully fund.”

Mayor Tory, who is gaining “strong mayor” powers as part of the province’s housing push, has been working on the Bill 23 issue “day and night,” his spokesperson Don Peat said, including direct appeals to Ford.

Everyone agrees the housing crisis requires new homes built quickly, Peat said in an email, but Tory is making the case that the city can’t lose more than $200 million a year in revenue.

“The Mayor is continuing to work on this issue non-stop and hopes a timely resolution can be found,” Peat said, adding Tory looks forward to the council debate so everyone can understand “what is at stake for our city.”