Bill 23 in Ontario: the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 receives Royal Assent
This bulletin will cover Bill 23 in Ontario and the changes to legislation related to planning and development, development charges, Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) proceedings, heritage and conservation and new legislation affecting York and Durham Regions. A detailed review of each of the statutes is provided in drop-down links below.
On November 28, 2022, the Ontario government passed the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 (Bill 23), a bill that significantly amends and creates new legislation affecting planning and land development across the Province. The government has described the plan as “part of a long-term strategy to increase housing supply and provide attainable housing options for hardworking Ontarians and their families,” with a goal of building 1.5 million homes in 10 years.1
Although the comment period on Bill 23 was extended to December 9, it appears that the government had a mandate to pass the new legislation at the same accelerated pace that it passed Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019.
It is important to note that Bill 23 in Ontario is part of a package of new mandates affecting planning and development in Ontario, including changes to related regulations, the introduction of new municipal housing targets and anticipated consolidation of Provincial plans and policies.
Planning and development
Bill 23 in Ontario introduces significant changes to the Planning Act2 to create expanded “as of right” development rights for small scale residential development, regulate the use of inclusionary zoning, require municipalities to be more flexible with parkland dedications, limit the application of site plan control, and change how planning authority is exercised in upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and cottage country.
Amendments to the Planning Act following the new Ontario housing bill include:
- Requiring official plans and zoning by-laws to permit “as of right” small scale residential uses of up to three units per lot in areas where municipal services are available
- Restricting rights to appeal for minor variances and consents to applicants, municipalities and certain public bodies and a small list of “specified persons” (for example, utilities and railways) retroactively
- Establishing new limits on and regulation applicable to inclusionary zoning requirements
- Amending how community benefit charges are calculated and secured and providing exemptions for affordable units
- Reducing the scope of site plan control approvals, including exempting residential buildings containing no more than 10 units from site plan control and removing exterior design from the list of matters to be addressed through site plan control, subject to limited exceptions
- Reducing parkland dedication requirements and introducing a new framework for parkland to be identified by landowners, subject to appeal to the OLT
- Simplifying the use of Ministerial orders relating to Official Plans and Ministerial Zoning Orders
- Removing public meeting requirements from draft plan of subdivision approvals
- Requiring municipalities to adopt zoning by-law amendments that implement maximum densities and minimum/maximum heights around certain major transit station areas within one year of identifying such major transit station areas in an official plan
- Removing prohibition of amendments to official plans and secondary plans within two years of such plans coming into effect and prohibition of zoning by-law amendments and minor variances where a comprehensive zoning by-law or site-specific zoning by-law amendment comes into effect
- Removing planning responsibilities from certain upper-tier municipalities including the County of Simcoe and the Regions of Durham, Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York
A more detailed review of the changes to the Planning Act is available below.
The Municipal Act, 2001 is also amended to permit the Minister to make regulations to limit a municipality’s powers to prohibit and regulate the demolition and conversion of residential rental properties.
A more detailed review of the changes to the Municipal Act, 2001 is available below.
A number of reductions have been introduced for development charges (DCs), including several new discounts and exemptions to the rates that municipalities can charge for new development. The differential rates for development timing, housing type, and changes to interest rates could have a significant impact on developers’ pro formas in the near term, and on the other hand, on municipal budgets and their ability to finance infrastructure in the long-term.
Amendments to the Development Charges Act, 1997 include:
- Introducing new discounts based on a four-year phased basis and for purpose built rental
- Introducing new exemptions for affordable units
- Revising the eligible capital costs calculation, by removing housing services from eligible costs and extending the service level horizon to 15 years
- Extending the maximum DC By-law term from five to 10 years
- Capping interest on DCs to the average prime bank rate plus one per cent
A more detailed review of the changes to the Development Charges Act, 1997 is available below.
Amendments to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021 expand the power of the OLT to dismiss appeals and award costs to the successful parties. The OLT may be required, through regulation, to prioritize the resolution of certain classes of proceedings and be subject to timelines during such proceedings.
A more detailed review of the changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021 is available below.
Amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act and related regulations will simplify and expedite the process for removing heritage designations and establish new restrictions governing the application of heritage designations including by:
- Providing for the introduction of additional criteria for new heritage designations and for the identification of heritage conservation districts, through Bill 23 and revisions to O. Reg. 9/06, Criteria for Determining Cultural Heritage Value or Interest
- Requiring the removal of properties from the municipality’s heritage register, if certain circumstances exist
- Requiring non-designated properties on the municipality’s heritage register to meet one or more of the criteria in O. Reg. 9/06, through Bill 23 and revisions to O. Reg. 9/06,
- Prohibiting the designation of properties to be of cultural heritage value or interest once applications for official plan amendments, zoning by-law amendments or draft plan of subdivision have been filed unless already on the register
- Permitting the province to override provincial heritage standards and guidelines where they conflict with provincial priorities such as transit, housing, health and long-term care and infrastructure.
Amendments to the Conservation Authorities Act have the potential to permit development in areas that were previously prohibited through regulation, freeze certain fees payable to the conservation authority (once this section from Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, comes into force) and impose new limits on a conservation authority’s programs or services, if related to reviewing development applications.
- Under a proposed regulation, a conservation authority cannot perform its review and commenting role, as a “municipal” or “other” program or service, under the following prescribed acts: the Aggregate Resources Act, the Condominium Act, the Drainage Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, the Ontario Heritage Act, and Ontario Water Resources Act, and the Planning Act.
- Under a proposed regulation, conservation authorities will be required, as part of their existing obligation to complete a conservation area strategy and land inventory of lands they own or control, to identify any such lands that could support housing development.
Bill 23 in Ontario also enables conservation authorities to more easily sell, lease or dispose of land previously granted to them by the Minister. The new Ontario housing bill further amends provisions requiring a conservation authority to issue a permit or permission if a Minister’s Zoning Order has been made to also apply to orders made under s. 34.1 of the Planning Act (as part of the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator process). Further, the Minister may prescribe limits on the conditions a conservation authority may include on a permit it issues where there is a Minister’s Zoning Order.
Bill 23 revokes the 36 regulations that set out, for each conservation authority in Ontario, the activities and associated requirements for permits or permissions. The Province is proposing instead a single regulation (see proposed regulation) that will set out the requirements that apply across all conservation authorities and generally limit the ability of a conservation authority to regulate prohibited development and other activities to impacts to flooding control and other natural hazards.
New legislation affecting York and Durham Regions
In addition to revising key statutes related to development, the new Ontario housing bill enacts the Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022, which addresses two specific public works projects in the GTA:
- The York Region sewage works project, which will improve and enlarge the York Durham Sewage System to convey sewage to the Dufferin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. This project is to be an undertaking of York Region and Durham Region.
- The Lake Simcoe phosphorus reduction project, which will address drainage from the Holland Marsh and remove phosphorus before discharge into the West Holland River. This project is to be an undertaking of one or more of the following municipalities (to be prescribed by Regulation): York Region, a lower-tier municipality within York Region, or a lower-tier municipality within the County of Simcoe.
A more detailed review of the Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022 is available below.
BLG’s Municipal Law and Land Use Planning lawyers have been monitoring the readings to Bill 23 as this legislation made its way through the Ontario Legislature from its First Reading on October 25, 2022, to receiving Royal Assent on November 28, 2022.
If you have further questions about Bill 23 in Ontario and its impacts on the land development industry and regulation by public authorities, please reach out to any of the authors or key contacts listed below.
- By: Emma Blanchard, Isaac Tang, Andrew Baker, Laura Robinson, Julie Lesage, Lee English, Byron Taylor-Conboy, Celine Zhen