On May 2, 2019, the Ontario Government announced major changes to the planning and development regime through its Housing Supply Action Plan, and released the final version of its new Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, scheduled to come into force on May 16, 2019. The province intends to implement its Action Plan through Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, which it tabled the same day.
Bill 108 proposes to amend 13 different statutes, with the stated aim of reducing the costs and delays of development in order to increase the supply of affordable housing in Ontario. Of these 13 statutes, the most consequential changes for the development industry are to the Planning Act, Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, Development Charges Act, and Ontario Heritage Act. Highlights of the proposed changes include:
Restoring the Powers of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act ("LPAT")
Many of the proposed amendments to the Planning Act, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, and the Ontario Heritage Act are intended to reverse the changes introduced by the previous Liberal Government in 2017 through Bill 139. Key amendments include:
- Hearings before LPAT will once again be conducted on a de novo basis, with the Tribunal empowered to make any decision available to the municipality. Under Bill 139, Official Plan and Zoning By-law appeals could only be dismissed by the Tribunal or sent back to the municipality;
- On appeals, parties will once again be permitted to produce new evidence that was not before council, including calling expert witnesses.
- The test on appeal for all planning decisions will once again be what constitutes good planning on the merits, as opposed to just conformity with an Official Plan or consistency with provincial policy;
- Reducing municipal Councils' mandatory planning decision timelines: for Official Plan Amendments, from 210 days to 120 days; for Plans of Subdivision, from 180 to 120 days; and for Zoning By-law Amendments, from 150 days to 90 days;
- Section 37 of the Planning Act, which permits municipalities to demand public benefits in exchange for density will be revamped as a "Community Benefit Charge," which will be calculated up-front and subject to caps prescribed by regulation. Community Benefit Charges will also replace certain Development Charges, and may include parkland dedication in some circumstances. Municipalities will need to implement a "strategy" and a by-law to govern and implement this charge;
- Empowering the Minister to implement Community Planning Permit Systems (formerly known as Development Permits) in Major Transit Station Areas and Provincially Significant Employment Zones, with development approvals potentially as fast as 45 days;
- Establishing new mandatory standards for heritage designation by-laws, as well as time limits for decision-making on heritage designations; and
- Restoring the ability to appeal a property's heritage designation to the LPAT.
Changes to the Development Charges Act
Amendments to the Development Charges Act are similarly intended to reduce costs and provide increased predictability for developers, with key changes including:
- Second units in certain classes of new residential buildings or ancillary structures will be exempt from development charges; and
- Development charges will be frozen earlier in time, at the time of planning application, but will not be payable until the issuance of a building permit (or in certain circumstances, the execution of a consent or subdivision agreement).
These measures go a long way towards restoring a degree of predictability for developers, and towards reinforcing evidence-based planning decision-making. More details, including transition measures, will become apparent as regulations are released. We will continue to provide updates as more is known.