Bill 23: Omnibus bill means that suddenly everything is at risk

… ravines, conservation lands, housing, municipal revenue and citizen rights, but housing is still unaffordable

Residents’ Associations across the city anxiously awaited the details of this pending legislation on Tuesday, October 25th. Alas, the news was worse than we feared.

Sweeping new legislation has been introduced under the banner of ‘more homes built faster.’ Resident Associations have long maintained there could be residential intensification in existing built-up areas while also ensuring that neighbourhood scale and character was maintained.

However, legislation that supports intensification should not come at the expense of existing environmental protections, such as ravines and parklands and threaten municipal ability to pay for the infrastructure required for growth.

Everyone’s dream is to have a white picket fence

Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing
Steve Clark, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing

Ford and his housing minister previewed the legislation in a Toronto Region Board of Trade event earlier on Tuesday. Ford said in his speech …

“Everyone’s dream is to have a little white picket fence. You know, when they put the key in the door, they know they’re building equity into it, they can do the little tweaks to their house and increase the value of it. That’s our goal.”

It is not yet clear how the proposed legislation will achieve this goal.

The legislation introduces a new concept definition called ‘attainable housing’ that seems to look very much like the old ‘market-based housing.’ This is precisely the outcome that the building industry is hoping for. Toronto has more than 230 cranes in-the-air providing mostly market-based housing … so we can expect more cranes on the horizon.

The wheels are in motion

On October 25, 2022, First Reading of Bill 23 (the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022) was carried. Bill 23 was introduced as a part of implementation of the Ontario government’s Housing Supply Action Plan, released in March 2022, aiming to have 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years. If passed, the omnibus bill will make a number of significant changes to numerous planning and development statutes, including the Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Ontario Heritage Act, and Conservation Authorities Act.

Bill 23 is a complex piece of legislation that stretches to 79 pages that include ten schedules. Planning lawyers and specialists across the province are pouring over the legislation to understand its meaning and impact.

Available resource material

Jessica Bell, MPP for University-Rosedale, has been leading the charge to decode the contents of Bill 23 and provides an excellent summary.

Several municipal law firms have provided easy-to-read summaries of the proposed legislation. Some of these firms are listed below with links to their published material.

What you need to do

The first course of action is to build awareness and education within the board of your association. The proposed legislation will impact all residents of Toronto, the GTA and the province.

Then reach out to your local MPP to find out more about how they are planning to respond to these issues.

All impacted parties are encouraged to provide written submissions to the provincial government to describe their concerns. The Environmental Registry of Ontario Consultation Notice for Bill 23 contains the contact details and deadlines for written submissions. Please note that Bill 23 itself has no requirement for consultation, but there is consultation required for the changes made to various acts affected by it, which are listed on the ERO Consultation notice page.

Image credits:
Markham, ON housing development: Loozrboy from Toronto, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Clark, MPP: Legislature of Ontario, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons