On April 6th, 2023, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, the latest legislative effort to combat the housing supply crisis. Bill 97 marks the most recent addition to a series of legislative amendments aimed at supporting Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan and bolstering housing availability in the province.
The government’s latest set of initiatives under the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act are designed to:
- Help tenants and landlords
- Streamline land-use planning policy
- Help homebuyers
- Build Capacity to speed up approvals
Within this significant piece of legislation, the most notable legislative amendments include:
- The Residential Tenancies Act will be amended to increase tenants’ protections against evictions due to renovations, demolitions, conversions and landlord’s own use, doubles the maximum fines for act violations and clarifies tenants’ rights to install air conditioners.
- Integrate the Provincial Policy Statement and A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe into a single Provincial Planning Statement to simplify and streamline land-use planning rules.
- To get more homes built faster, the Planning Act will be changed to grant new powers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and address various aspects of planning and development, in addition to specifying zoning as part of a Minister’s Zoning Order. Under the new provisions, the Minister can exempt certain approvals required for uses permitted by an MZO from the application of policy statements, provincial plans, and official plans.
- To protect first-time home buyers, the government will expand deposit insurance for First Home Savings Accounts of credit union members.
- The government will freeze 74 provincial fees at current levels to reduce the cost of building housing.
- The government is taking steps to increase staff and cut wait times at the landlord-tenant board so landlords and tenants can see cases resolved quickly.
Housing affordability continues to be a major electoral concern for voters. Polls conducted by Angus Reid in June 2023 found that 30% of Canadians ranked Housing Affordability as a top issue, while a December 2022 poll revealed that 34% of Ontarians view housing as a top challenge for the province.
Doug Ford’s Ontario Progressive Conservatives campaigned on an ambitious promise to build 1.5 million new homes in the province over the next 10 years in order to address housing affordability challenges.
The Ontario government maintains that it has made “significant progress in tackling Ontario’s housing supply crisis” by introducing a range of bold and transformative measures over the past three years to increase housing supply. Despite this progress, the government acknowledges that more work is required to achieve its housing supply target. Bill 97 seeks to accelerate the impact of the PC’s previous housing initiatives while also expanding protections to renters and landlords.
While the opposition has indicated that renter protections is something they support, the NDP, and Liberal Party called on the government to do more on this issue and maintained that Bill 97 does not go far enough to address the housing crisis or protect tenants from illegal evictions.
The most significant stakeholder criticism of Bill 97 came from Ontario’s agriculture sector due to its provision allowing farmlands to be split into smaller residential lots. This measure was intended to support multi-generational farming but was met with backlash from industry organizations. Farmers argued that it threatens dwindling farmland and the rural landscape. After meeting with farmers, Premier Ford decided not to proceed with the lot severance proposal.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS SAYING
“Achieving our goal won’t be easy. No single government – municipal, provincial or federal – can solve the housing supply crisis alone. We are counting on our municipal and federal partners to be part of the solution so that, working in partnership, we can create the homes that Ontarians need today, tomorrow and in the decades to come.” – Hon. Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING
“Today’s initiatives are a step in the right direction, most notably through intensification around major transit stations, making it easier to convert commercial properties into housing, and rolling back exclusionary zoning,” – Tim Hudak, Ontario Real Estate Association, CEO
“We understand — and support — the need to increase the housing supply in Ontario, but we also want to ensure that housing is developed without encroaching on Ontario’s farmland, which is our most precious natural resource.” – The Ontario Federation of Agriculture
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?
“The Conservatives’ plan to curb illegal evictions is too weak to work. Bill 97 does nothing to address the fact that Ontario’s eviction-protection rules are not enforced by anyone. Not by the police, not by the Landlord Tenant Board, not by provincial or municipal governments.” – Jessica Bell, NDP Housing Critic
“It’s great to see the Conservatives finally come around on the need to protect renters, but this government’s problem has always been their inability to actually deliver on their promises…Ontarians deserve better — they deserve a government that will take real action to address the affordability crisis and make life easier for the hardworking families that call this province home.” – John Fraser, Interim Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
Following Bill 97’s Royal Assent on June 8th, 2023, regulatory consultations were held on the various regulatory amendments made. Consideration of feedback resulted in clarifications and adjustments to the legislation during the Standing Committee process. With its consultations on Bill 97 completed, the newly appointed Housing Supply Action-Plan Implementation Team will advise the government on the implementation and evaluation of the progress of Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plans.
The Provincial Planning Statement, is proposed to take effect in the fall of 2023, replacing the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 and A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
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