Update on Bill 23

Dear Neighbour and BPRO Supporter

I just wanted to personally reach out and thank you for your continued support.  We have heard from several of you that our communications to the broader membership has been sorely lacking over the past several months.  Again we apologize and are close to having the situation rectified. 

Going forward our communications will be more of a BLOG type style vs the Newsletter style that was our previous main method of reaching out.  We have burned out two Comms chairs since we re booted the association 5 years ago.  The Newsletter was a big job and took several hours to pull together and then several more hours to format. The results were excellent needless to say however based on time constraints and being limited by the number of volunteer board members we have.  You should see much more communication from our Board in the very near future. 

The second reason communications was quiet was the entire process surrounding the application of the NYX development project at 3180 Yonge St.  To give the full story of the net result please see my post from my speech at the AGM last November.  It’s the one right after this one.

Needless to say the recent changes to how the City handles or better — what their new role is in the world of development applications took a long time to understand.  We have been working with the other neighbouring RO’s as well as the Office of our City Councillor Mike Colle to understand what input power is left when it comes to the new process as set out in Bill 23. 

The Bill was passed on November 28th, 2022 and received Royal Assent the same day. It is now in effect. This legislation is part of the government’s plans to achieve construction of build 1.5 million homes by 2032. Bill 23 implements recommendations from the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force Report.

Several Law firms offered summaries and opinions of the legislation.  This summary is from Bennett Jones website.

The Lowlights: Some Proposals to Be Concerned About

Unfortunately, not all the proposed changes are advantageous with certain ambiguities within the legislation causing particular concern. The “devil will be in the details”. 

Of these, perhaps the most concerning is the proposal to take away the rights of landowner’s to appeal municipally driven planning applications (official plans, zoning by-laws). These changes are somewhat surprising given that the general thrust of the remainder of the legislation is to benefit the development of housing. It is not unusual for municipalities to incorporate a variety of “poison pills” in their official plans that can have devastating impacts on future development, even where the same may run contrary to recent provincial approvals or policy. An inability to bring municipally proposed changes to an independent third party such as the OLT could easily be abused by municipalities to trigger a wide variety of mischief that runs counter to the general objectives of the Plan.

High Level Summary of Additional Proposals

Planning Act

Should the legislation pass, the Planning Act will be amended in a number of ways to promote housing construction. One significant “infill” change would be to permit up to three residential units “as of right” per lot on the majority of land zoned for one home in residential areas without requiring a municipal by-law amendment. To further encourage this form of increased housing, these units would be exempt from both development charges and parkland dedication fees.

Additionally, to reduce approval timelines to meet planned minimum height and density targets near major transit stations, municipalities will be required to update their zoning by-laws within one year following “key” policies being approved for major transit areas.

As mentioned above, Bill 23 also proposes restricting/prohibiting third party appeals of official plans and amendments, zoning by-laws and amendments, consents, and minor variances. Bill 23 would impose similar restrictions for appeal rights for these planning instruments as already exist for plans of subdivision, and would create a prescribed list of “specified persons.” Appeal rights would be maintained for key participants, except where appeals have been restricted elsewhere (such as a minister’s decision on a new official plan). Appeal rights of industry against municipal proposals to the official plan or zoning by-law are also proposed to be eliminated.

The proposed amendments would have a retroactive effect, applying to any matter that has been appealed, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing as of October 25, 2022. Importantly, this means third party appeals in process, but without a hearing date established prior to October 25, 2022, would be dismissed.

Further, Conservation Authority appeals under the Planning Act will be limited to matters that affect land owned by them, or where the Conservation Authority is the applicant. In the future, a Conservation Authority may only act as a public body in specific appeals, to be listed in the revised statute, where the appeal is made under a provision relating to natural hazard policies in the PPS.

As for projects with fewer than 10 residential units (some exceptions applying), proposed changes would remove site plan control requirements with the intention of speeding up housing proposals. In other circumstances, site plan approval will no longer be needed to consider design details and landscaping, as municipalities would be limited in what they can require in a site plan application.

To further increase efficiency the proposal also suggests re-allocating responsibility for certain land use policies and approvals from upper-tier municipalities, including Region of Durham, Region of Halton, Region of Peel, County of Simcoe, Region of Waterloo, Region of Niagara and Region of York, to lower-tier municipalities, allowing for greater community influence by reducing duplication of review.

Rental Housing

With this new legislation, the Ontario government is seeking to provide certainty with respect to inclusionary zoning rules to create better conditions for building more affordable and purpose-built rental housing. New regulations associated with the proposed legislation would create a maximum 25-year affordability period, a 5 percent cap on the number of inclusionary zoning units and a standardized approach to determining the price or rent of an affordable unit under an inclusionary zoning program.

Development charges would also be reduced for rental units by 25 percent for 3+ bedrooms, 20 percent for two bedrooms and 15 percent for smaller units. Further, the legislation seeks to clean up the five years to pay system by clarifying that it is five years from occupancy or occupancy permit and setting the maximum interest rate on the development charges to a rate equal to the average prime rate of the major Canadian Banks (the base rate), plus one. The base rate would be adjusted four times a year.

Freezing, Reducing and Exempting Fees

Through amendments to the Planning Act, the Development Charges Act and the Conservation Act there will be an increased ability to freeze, reduce and exempt fees. An example highlighted by the Ontario government is the exemption of affordable and inclusionary zoning units, in addition to select attainable housing, to be defined in future regulations, and non-profit housing developments, from development charges, parkland dedication levies and CBC.

Additional proposed changes aimed to reduce the cost of housing through freezing, reducing or exempting fees include:

  • freezing parkland rates as of the date a zoning by-law or site plan application is filed, as further discussed below under the parkland heading;
  • Rental construction would also benefit by receiving reduced development charges; and
  • Conservation authority fees for development permits and temporarily freezing proposals.

Continued Vigilance

In spite of all these changes and we do feel that there is still a role for the community to play and it is more important than ever to stay active and in the loop.  We will continue to defend the integrity of our neighbourhood as best we can.  We will work with the other RO’s to be in front of Developers and Planners to remind all involved that neighbourhoods matter.  New and existing community members need the infrastructure of schools and parkland to support and expected quality of life that comes with good community planning. 

We thank you for your continued support and please look forward to hearing from us a lot more in the future. 

2022/23 Board of the Bedford Park Residents Organization