The experts who manage planning in cities across Ontario say they want a seat at the table as the Ford government finalizes its controversial new bill to accelerate the construction of new homes.
The Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario say in a report released this week that they have identified 21 "big gaps" in Ontario's housing delivery pipeline. Addressing those problems should be at the heart of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, says the group's chairperson Thom Hunt.
And while Premier Doug Ford's goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next decade is laudable, planners across Ontario should be part of that process, he adds.
"What we're trying to say in our report is that if you want to get there, we'd have to address some of these gaps that we identified," he said.
The report from the planners drills down on problems with building and financing growth, ensuring affordable housing construction is completed, and creating collaboration between governments, developers and municipalities.
The report warns that Bill 23 could unleash "major unintended consequences" if it's passed into law in its current state.
'Growth should pay for growth'
The bill will increase the financial burden on taxpayers, reduce their ability to create new parks and other open spaces, the report says
Hunt says one of the gaps identified in the report is the looming question about offering builders waivers or freezes on development charges. Without those fees, communities will struggle to build sewers, sidewalks and roads that service new homes, he says.
"Development charges are the backbone of how you get complete communities," Hunt said.
"Growth should pay for growth."
The legislation was introduced by the province last month to streamline development and ensure more homes are built across Ontario.
But some critics say parts of the bill that propose to waive or freeze some development charges will cost Ontario's municipalities billions, while other clauses put environmental protections and heritage designated properties at risk.
Hunt says if planners are at the table with the province they can help address the problem and put achievable goals in place to help hit the housing targets.
"Let's collaborate on this, we're not going to achieve this in a year, right? 10 years is a good target," he said.
Toronto council requests pause on housing bill
In Toronto this week, city councillors passed a motion asking the province to amend the legislation and pause the bill until the end of January so that the government can consult the public, consider alternatives and analyze its impacts.
The city has estimated it will lose an estimated $230 million a year in development charges, community benefits charges and parkland levies if the bill is passed.
Mayor John Tory says the request has been formally relayed to the province and he continues to discuss the matter with officials at Queen's Park.
"I just think when push comes to shove, most people won't find it very sensible to be taking money intended for the city to develop much needed infrastructure … and have that money left in the pockets of developers and not available to the city to build the kinds of things we need," Tory said on Friday.
A spokesperson from Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark says the province needs to move forward with Bill 23 to address Ontario's housing crisis.
In a written statement, Victoria Podbielski says the bill will remove development charges for affordable and non-profit housing, not all new builds.
"To be clear, this doesn't mean that municipalities won't get revenue from a new home build, it means that home ownership won't keep moving further out of reach for Ontarians because of increased fees that add thousands to the price of a home."