Passage of Bill 108 paves the way for massive sprawl; could cost Brampton billions
Just over a month after its introduction, the provincial PCs’ controversial Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, was passed inside Queen’s Park on Thursday.
The Conservatives have talked up the bill as a blueprint for increasing housing stock in a province plagued with a shortage of affordable housing. Critics have slammed the bill as the fulfillment of a promise Premier Doug Ford made to developers during last year's election campaign. It will save developers billions of dollars in fees, allows the destruction of environmentally protected lands and will lead to more crippling sprawl, they say.
Premier Doug Ford and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark
An image of sprawling subdivision development in Peel surrounded by no other homes
Brampton officials recently revealed it could cost the city billions of dollars in lost revenue, as the new legislation removes a suite of fees that developers have always paid to cover the costs of the growth they create. Mayors across Ontario have also questioned the claims made by Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, who has said the new legislation will help create more affordable housing stock that is desperately needed. Critics have pointed out there is nothing in the language of the bill that guarantees developers will have to build affordable housing. Some have said it will make housing even more expensive, while it eliminates some fees developers have to pay. The billions of dollars in lost revenues from "Development Charges" will likely have to be recovered by further taxing municipal property owners.
Potential impact of Bill 108 on Brampton
“Young people in their 20s and 30s are asking: What happened to the starter home? And why can’t I find a place near transit? And families are asking, why aren’t there enough apartments, condos, mid-rise buildings or townhouses that I can afford with a space for my kids,” Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark said in early May when he first introduced the legislation.
“The changes proposed by Bill 108 do nothing to reduce provincial costs but do increase the costs to municipalities at a time we are all trying to find efficiencies,” Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward said in a tweet.
Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam joined Meed Ward in criticizing the bill. “It allows for destruction of heritage properties and does NOTHING to improve housing affordability. It's a power grab for developers & nothing more,” she said on her Twitter account.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown joined the chorus of critics during a May 29 council meeting, saying, “I don’t know what interest it’s serving. There’s no group out there saying … ‘I want to give developers a break so that we have less money for libraries or sidewalks.’”
Brown was spurred on by a staff presentation that indicated, “There is no mechanism in Bill 108 that would ensure any ‘savings’ achieved by developers would be passed on to homebuyers or renters.”
City Staff presentation on Bill 108
The new framework for planning-decision appeals under the bill is a return to the old Ontario Municipal Board system, which was widely perceived as being too friendly to developers, allowing them to override decisions taken at the municipal level. The Liberals under Kathleen Wynne abolished the OMB, replacing it with the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
The bill also seeks to reform development charges in a way, critics say, that will put a big dent in municipal revenues. A yet-to-be-explained community benefits charge is expected to replace development charges in their current form when it comes to underwriting recreational facilities, parks and libraries; critics suggest the new rules are likely to create pockets of underserved neighbourhoods.
Brampton staff presentation on impacts of Bill 108
The legislation is also being slammed by conservationists and municipal officials who say it will open the way for development in protected areas such as The Greenbelt, which rings the GTA. Ford was caught on video last year, ahead of the provincial election, at a meeting with developers, promising them he would open up the protected Greenbelt for development. A massive backlash forced him to claim he would do no such thing, ahead of the election. Brown and many other municipal leaders have sharply criticized Ford's disregard for smart land-use policy at a time when the issue is considered one of the keys to addressing human impacts on climate change.
The bill will also dramatically reduce the amount of green space developers will be required to include in future developments, which means less land for parks and more for developers to build houses and condos on.
Bill 108 also eliminates development charges for secondary suites built into new homes. Brampton Councillor Jeff Bowman, though recognizing the possibility to increase affordable housing supply, has repeatedly criticized the bill's lack of safety provisions.
“He’s done nothing in there to further allow our bylaw [enforcement] or fire to come in and inspect the illegal units,” he told The Pointer last month, referrring to existing secondary suites. It's estimated there are between 30,000 and 50,000 such units in the city.
He was prompted to write to Ford after a 29-year-old man died in a Brampton basement apartment fire. Bowman pleaded for legal changes that would allow bylaw enforcement officers to enter a home suspected of having an illegal suite without a warrant to inspect it for safety. The response from Steve Clark, which merely pointed out that bylaw officers can enter homes with a warrant or the owner’s permission, left him “disappointed.”
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