Proposed Legislation Will Create More Homes, Less Food Say Farm Organizations

The flurry of provincial legislation designed to facilitate the construction of new homes in Ontario continues, leaving municipalities wondering how to adhere to the new rules while maintaining viable and liveable communities.

Bills 109 and 23 aim to build homes faster, primarily through administrative changes to the planning rules and processes.  These bills are currently in place.  New proposed legislation brought forward in April include Bill 97 and a new Provincial Policy Statement, which are still under review and consist primarily of extensions and clarifications of the earlier legislation.

To get things moving faster, developments are to be divided into two categories: minor or major, with a different set of rules for each. Minor applications for things like minor variances, rezoning as related to an approved subdivision, are considered to be straightforward.  Approval authority for these kinds of applications are to be delegated to an agent or employee of a municipality, such as the CAO or the Planning Director, rather than the municipal council.  This could expedite the approval process.

More complex applications follow a new process front ends many of the steps that now occur after an application is deemed to be complete.  A Pre-application process includes the completion of studies, a public meeting and the collection feedback in order to mitigate potential concerns prior to the formal application.  Once an application is deemed complete, the clock starts ticking in a refund schedule where delays in the municipal approval process trigger partial or possibly complete refunds of application fees.

Intensification of housing is possible through the creation of up to three accessory apartments or additional dwelling units on each serviced lot. In other words, each single, semi or townhouse in Millbrook could create up to two more residential units on their property.

Proposed new planning legislation, Bill 97 and a new Provincial Policy Statement eliminates some of the current controls on where and how much development happens.  It simplifies the process of expanding settlement areas and creating new ones, reduces some of the protections for sensitive land uses and opens the door to development on agricultural properties.  Permission for up to two additional residential units are contemplated for each rural lot.  Provincial Agricultural System maps will no longer guide development decisions.

Residential lot creation in prime agricultural areas has long been a controversial topic.  Farm organizations including Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Farmland Trust are crying foul.  While recognizing that housing supply is a significant issue, they believe these changes will threaten long-term food security.  Only five percent of Ontario is considered productive farmland.  In 2016, the rate of farm land loss reached 319 acres per day, up from the previous rate of 175 acres per day.  Farm organizations expect the changes to accelerate this rate of farmland loss.  In addition, they suggest that speculative investment motivated by the potential of severances could drive up farmland values, making farming even less attractive to future generations.

All of these policies are designed to facilitate the achievement of the provincial government’s goal of creating of 1.5 million new homes by 2031.  The municipality has until June 6th to submit their comments.  KG

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