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Re-imagining how planning and development works in Ontario: the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022

On Oct. 25, 2022, the Ontario government introduced the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 (Bill 23), an omnibus bill which proposes amendments to nine statutes 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

This bulletin will cover changes to six statutes 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 links below.

Planning and development

Bill 23 proposes significant changes to the Planning Actin order to create expanded “as of right” development rights for small scale residential development (up to three units per lot), 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 proposed in Bill 23 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 official plan amendments, zoning by-law amendments, minor variances and consents to applicants, municipalities and certain public bodies and a small list of “specified persons” (e.g. utilities and railways) with retroactive effect
  • Establishing new limits on and regulation applicable to inclusionary zoning requirements
  • Amending how community benefit charges are calculated 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
  • Reducing parkland dedication requirements and introducing a new framework for parkland to be identified by landowners, subject to appeal by the municipality 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 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 proposed changes to the Planning Act is available below.

Development charges

Numerous reductions are proposed 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.

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 proposed changes to the Development Charges Act, 1997 is available below.

OLT proceedings

Amendments to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021 would 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 proposed changes to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, 2021 is available below.

Heritage protection

Amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act would 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
  • Requiring the removal of properties from the municipality’s heritage register, if certain circumstances exist
  • 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.

Conservation authorities

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. Bill 23 also proposes to enable conservation authorities to more easily sell, lease or dispose of land previously granted to it by the Minister. The bill also proposes to amend 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).

New legislation affecting York and Durham regions

In addition to revising key statutes related to development, Bill 23 proposes to enact 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 proposed Supporting Growth and Housing in York and Durham Regions Act, 2022 is available below.

BLG’s Municipal Law and Land Use Planning lawyers will be monitoring the readings to Bill 23 as this legislation makes its way through the Ontario Legislature.

If you have further questions about this Bill 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.

Key Contacts