Housing Act a good move

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The Ontario government’s More Homes Built Faster Act isn’t perfect, but if passed, will certainly help the Highlands housing crisis. In case you missed it, the province introduced the Act Oct. 25. 

The plan is to build 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. The minister of municipal affairs and housing said what it is proposing will ensure towns and rural communities grow with a mix of ownership and rental housing types that meet the needs of all, from single-family homes to townhouses and mid-rise apartments. 

The change with perhaps the biggest impact locally will be removing exclusionary zoning, which allows only one single detached home per lot. 

Instead, it would permit property owners to build three units without lengthy approvals and development charges. I have personally encountered people in the Highlands who have quite a bit of land and want to build a second home on their property for an aging parent, or a son or daughter. 

This would allow them to do that. It is crucial to providing more, and affordable, housing for locals. It also means the building of more triplexes and garden suites. This fits in with our community housing profile, as opposed to townhouses and mid-rise apartments. However, there are places for those types of developments as well. 

The government is also targeting delays and red tape to get more homes built faster and local developers will tell you that has been a problem in the County, sometimes exasperated by having to go through a lowertier municipality and then the County. 

The changes also look to reduce government fees, which should help with the cost of inflation and how it is impacting the building industry. Some other measures include increasing the non-resident speculation tax rate to 25 per cent, from 20, to deter non-resident investors, making home ownership more attainable for Highlanders. There’s lots of good things in this bill. However, one concern is that regional authorities won’t have the same chance to review and comment on development applications.

How much could that affect the environment? Limiting public hearings and resident appeals will cause concerns, and is aimed squarely at eliminating NIMBYism.

Some will see this as undemocratic. It would have been nice to see more empowerment for regional and municipal governments to directly build affordable housing on land they own, either on their own or with partners. Some have said they should allow four accommodations per property, up from three. A lot of people like the direction, however, including the MacdonaldLaurier Institute. They said the government is finally recognizing the root cause of high prices is a lack of supply due to overburdensome fees, regulations, zoning restrictions and time-consuming application processes. 

The Ontario Real Estate Association likes the tack the government is taking as well. They favour the rolling back of exclusionary zoning, lowering fees for new home buyers and pushing back on NIMBY forces. However, many say even the 50 actions in the Act do not go far enough and more is immediately required. We agree. For example, Ontario should give first-time home buyers instant relief by getting rid of the land transfer tax, or upping the existing rebate. The tax can add thousands to closing costs. 

Eliminating it would be a welcome bonus for families looking to get into the market.