Days before the Ontario legislature passed the controversial More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23), a group of Ottawa-area politicians, conservation experts and other critics explored the implications of the bill in an online discussion forum.
The Nov. 23 webinar featured Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, Heritage Ottawa’s David Flemming and several other activists and experts who raised concerns about how Bill 23 could affect the natural environment and create other problems.
Bill 23 has been touted by the Ford government as a blueprint to increase housing supply by encouraging the construction of 1.5 million new homes by 2032.
“The housing supply shortage affects all Ontarians: rural, urban and suburban, north and south, young and old,” Steve Clark, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, has stated. “The problem is clear. There simply aren’t enough homes being built. And the solution is equally clear. We need to get more homes built faster.”
Though the legislation will have a significant impact on land use in Ottawa and other Ontario cities, critics say citizens of the province haven’t had much of a chance to learn about the new law and its repercussions.
‘This legislation may have started out as about housing affordability, but at some point along the train, it turned into a Christmas wish list for private sector developers.’— Ray Sullivan, Ottawa Community Land Trust
In crafting the bill now approved at Queen’s Park, critics say the government has altered the City of Ottawa’s Official Plan to increase housing density, expanded the supply of developable land on the periphery of the city and removed certain renter protections.
Webinar hosts Gower and Leiper were joined by Ray Sullivan of the Ottawa Community Land Trust, Christine McCuaig, a planning consultant from Q9 Designs, Sally McIntyre, general manager of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, and Kristi Ross, a land-use planning and environmental lawyer.
Sullivan said he believes Bill 23 will not benefit Ontarians. “This legislation may have started out as about housing affordability, but at some point along the train, it turned into a Christmas wish list for private sector developers.”
Flemming agreed, adding: “They say it’s going to create more housing, but it’s going to create more problems for more people.”
While home affordability is a problem in Ontario, critics say Bill 23 won’t help. According to The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the bill contains nothing that would ensure increased affordability and might leave municipalities short $5 billion — forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab through property taxes or service reductions.
“Every one-per-cent increase in our taxes brings in about $17 million in revenue in Ottawa,” said Leiper.
The vast majority of Ontarians won’t benefit from the bill, Jessica Bell, housing critic for the Ontario NDP, has argued.
“Bill 23 will make Ford’s developer buddies even richer, while hurting Ontarians by making the housing crisis even worse,” Bell said in a recent public statement.