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May 7th, 2024 · No Comments

New housing bills encourage sprawl and thwart democracy

By Jessica Bell

The Conservatives have introduced another housing bill and revamped the Provincial Policy Statement which sets planning rules for the province.  Here’s what you should know about the Conservatives’ latest moves. 

Third-party appeals to the lands tribunal will be banned. Residents will not be able to go to the lands tribunal to contest a development, be it a condo or a quarry. This is concerning.

Municipalities should have official plans that encourage density and ensure we meet our housing targets—which Toronto is doing. The lands tribunal should be a tool of last resort—not first resort—for projects that clearly violate provincial law.

Municipalities will be able to bring in “use-it-or-lose-it” rules to compel a developer to build a development once they’ve been given the approval to do so. We’ve been calling for this change for some time because municipalities approve far more projects than are built.

Developments near transit stations are exempt from meeting parking minimums, although they can build parking if they choose.

In a move we have long called for, the government will bring in standardized pre-approved home designs. This proposal will help Ontario spur the construction of more affordable homes built in factories off-site and then shipped to their final location. To spur good job creation, we’re calling for these homes to be built by unionized workers in Ontario factories.

The government is putting some more transparency on the controversial ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) process, which allows the province to quickly exempt a development from local and provincial planning rules.

This latest rewrite requires the developer to explain why a development needs to be exempt from planning rules and how it meets provincial priorities or local municipal approval. 

In a win for residents and municipalities, the government is rolling back some of its drastic cuts to developer fees in previous bills and allocating more funding to municipal infrastructure. Until this announcement, municipalities were hiking property taxes and delaying infrastructure investment to cover the loss of developer fee revenue. This is a good move and a hard-fought victory.  

Student housing is now exempt from the Planning Act, which will mean the University of Toronto can build more housing, more quickly. While we certainly need more student housing and rental housing in our riding, we need affordable student housing.

Students at the University of Toronto are spending about $2300 a month to live in a dorm room, and they often must move out after first year. 

Student housing is also exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act, which means students don’t have protection from eviction, and they’re not protected by rent control. Students should have the same provincial protections as any other renter. 

 Like a multi-headed hydra that just keeps coming back, the government is moving ahead, once again, on permitting sprawl.

The new Provincial Policy Statement eliminates firm density requirements for municipalities. Municipalities are now merely encouraged to meet a target of 50 people per hectare which is the density in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood.

The government is also making it easier for municipalities and developers to change urban boundaries and approve sprawl on nearby farmland. Changes to urban boundaries can now be made at any time, not just through a careful five-year review. If a municipality approves a new development, no one can appeal the decision to the lands tribunal, but if a municipality denies the approval, the developer can appeal. So, it’s sprawl either way. 

Everyone in Ontario should have a home they can afford to rent or buy. We’ll be calling for improvements in this bill to encourage farmland and Greenbelt preservation, the construction of more homes in towns and cities, especially affordable homes, along with stronger rent control. I welcome your feedback. 

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the Official Opposition’s Housing Critic. She can be reached at or 416-535-7206. 


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