There has once again been a major shake-up to the planning regime in Ontario. On April 6, 2023, the Government of Ontario released the proposed Provincial Planning Statement 2023 (proposed PPS 2023), which integrates the Provincial Policy Statement 2020 (PPS 2020) and A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Growth Plan) into a singular, province-wide policy document. Comments on the proposed PPS 2023 can be provided until June 5, 2023 (see ERO Posting).
Alongside the proposed PPS 2023, the provincial government has tabled Bill 97, Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, 2023. The new bill contains relatively minor legislative changes to a number of Acts, which are also covered in this article. Comments on Bill 97 can be provided until May 6, 2023 (see ERO Posting).
The proposed PPS 2023 is intended to simplify existing policies and refocus them on achieving housing outcomes while giving large and fast-growing municipalities the tools they need to help deliver housing. At the same time, the proposed PPS 2023 recognizes that “one size does not fit all,” and generally provides a more flexible approach for municipalities to respond to individual market needs. The provincial government has set itself a clear target of encouraging the construction of 1.5 million homes by 2031 and the proposed PPS 2023 appears to have been created with that goal in mind.
This article will establish the key changes contained within the proposed PPS 2023 and Bill 97. A detailed analysis of the key changes will follow.
Key Changes in the proposed Provincial Planning Statement 2023
- Identifies “large and fast-growing municipalities” where growth must be directed to strategic growth areas;
- Removes mandatory intensification and density targets for all municipalities;
- Establishes broader permissions for residential intensification;
- Expands the definition of “housing options”;
- Removes the definition of “affordable” as it applies to housing; and
- Provides additional options for rural housing.
Settlement area expansion
- Removes the need for a municipal comprehensive review; and
- Reduces the requirements to permit a settlement area boundary expansion or identification of new settlement areas.
Employment protection and conversion
- Revises the definition of employment areas, to prohibit any commercial uses that are not associated with the primary employment use and institutional uses;
- Scopes and clarifies the test for employment conversion requests and removes the requirement for a municipal comprehensive review; and
- Does not carry forward the concept of Provincially Significant Employment Zones found in the Growth Plan to the proposed PPS 2023.
- Establishes schools as an element of a “complete community” and collaboration between planning authorities and school boards is specifically directed; and
- Recognizes innovative approaches in the design of schools, including schools located in high rise developments.
Land use compatibility
- Maintains current protections for existing or planned industrial and manufacturing uses or other major facilities;
- Removes requirement for proponent of sensitive land uses to demonstrate need or evaluate alternative locations for sensitive land uses where avoidance of adverse effects is not possible;
- Increases restrictions on uses permitted in employment areas; and
- Encourages industrial, manufacturing and small-scale manufacturing uses in strategic growth areas and other mixed-use areas where frequent transit service is available.
- Natural heritage policies and related definitions remain under consideration by the government; and
- There are indications of relaxing environmental considerations in favour of balancing with increasing the housing supply.
- Eliminates alternative evaluations for settlement area expansions;
- Establishes potentially less protection for specialty crop areas;
- Eliminates the alternative evaluations for mineral aggregate extraction rehabilitation;
- Eliminates the requirement to use the provincially mapped Agricultural System; and
- Permits additional dwelling units and ground-extensive energy facilities.
Minister’s additional powers
- Minister is allowed to make regulations and orders related to planning functions that previously would solely have been directed by local municipalities;
- Prohibits municipalities from enacting policies that are more restrictive than certain policies of the proposed PPS 2023 and establishes greater role for Ministerial Zoning Orders; and
- All municipal decisions, including zoning by-laws and permitting processes, must be consistent with the proposed PPS 2023, even before a municipality’s official plan has been updated.
Bill 97 amendments
- Amends the definition of “area of employment”;
- Extends the deadline for “Bill 109 fee refund regime” to July 1, 2023; and
- Restores the right of appeal to the initial passing of an interim control by-law.