Today the Ontario Government released the Housing Affordability Task Force’s recommendations report. Chaired by Jake Lawrence, a senior Scotiabank executive, and with representatives from many parts of the housing industry, the Task Force was established by the Ford Government in December 2021 in order to develop recommendations that address market housing supply and affordability. The report published today is a document with over 50 recommendations crowdsourced from meetings with industry and various stakeholder groups. While the report itself does not represent new Ontario government policy, many of the findings and recommendations are likely to influence government measures to address housing affordability. To that end, we expect a housing affordability bill to be introduced soon after the Legislature returns on Feb. 22 and for housing to be one of the main issues in the upcoming provincial election. As a result, the report published today will serve as a reference point in housing policy discussions over the next several months.
The Task Force’s report can be read in full here.
Highlights from the Task Force Report
From as-of-right zoning and building permissions to major changes to the OLT process and heritage policies, the recommendations have the potential to transform Ontario’s record on getting housing built – and the Task Force has set a goal of building 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years. As you would expect on such a contested issue, there are strong supporters and critics expressing their views. The report’s recommendations are likely to invite strong criticism from traditional neighbourhood and community associations, as well as municipal officials. On the other hand, many of the recommendations will be seen as overdue and necessary by industry and there are also an increasing number of vocal big-tent, younger pro-housing voices that will celebrate the report for recognizing municipalities’ failure to act for their generation. A recent Abacus Data poll found that the rising cost of living and housing affordability were two of the top three issues for Ontario residents province-wide, behind the COVID-19 pandemic. If pandemic-related anxieties recede over the coming months, the election landscape may be optimal for the advancement of substantial housing policy reform.
The following highlights significant recommendations from the report.
New Housing Policy Targets
While there have long been provincial growth targets and objectives to address housing needs, Ontario has consistently seen real growth outpace both projections and housing completions. These changes would make it harder for municipalities to fall back on just the number of approvals or to weigh other planning priorities against sustainable housing growth.
Allowing More Types of Housing As of Right
The Task Force has prioritized the advancement of “as of right” permissions based on the large number of municipal policy barriers that have prevented various kinds of gentle density and transit oriented housing from getting built. This would reduce review times, simplify applications processes, and reduce hard costs across a range of building types.
Improving Consultation and Planning Processes
This set of proposed policies would limit the ability of politicians, municipalities, and third parties to use public consultation, OLT appeals, or heritage listing processes to delay or impede new housing. Collectively, they represent a strong set of incentives and allowances that would streamline approvals and support cooperation.
An Election Issue to Watch
It is increasingly clear that housing and housing affordability will be two of the key issues in the upcoming Provincial Election. Sussex, as your trusted government relations advisors, will be closely tracking this election and its lead-up, just as we continue to monitor the political and policy processes at the provincial and municipal levels. We anticipate that there is enough time for one significant final piece of legislation on housing to be passed (or at least introduced) by the Province before the Legislature breaks and, if the MCR process is impacted, there could be an important window of time for many developers to review their options.
On March 3, 2022, Sussex is hosting a webinar previewing the upcoming election, featuring the latest polling data from Greg Lyle of Innovative Research Group and commentary and insights from Sabrina Nanji of Queen’s Park Observer and Sussex consultants. You can register for this event here. We can arrange a one-on-one briefing about the election with members of our Ontario Government Relations Practice Group. These briefings will include analysis of recent polling data and which issues are likely to gain the most attention to help your organization be prepared and understand how the election is likely to impact you.
As municipal officials and elected representatives digest this report and the provincial election, our Municipal Government Relations and Ontario Government Relations Practice Groups will be tracking their responses and how the issues translate into the provincial election this spring and local elections this fall. Aggressive policy changes at the provincial level will be met with challenges at the municipal level and Sussex will be ready to help clients navigate disruptions to regular business. Please don’t hesitate to contact your Sussex consultant should you have any questions or require more information.
Municipal Government Relations:
Jamie Besner, Managing Partner
Angela Drennan, Vice President and Municipal Practice Lead
Tristan Downe-Dewdney, Senior Associate
Lauren Goethel, Associate
Sophie Rusen, Junior Research Analyst
Ontario Government Relations:
Paul Pellegrini, Executive Chairman
Robyn Gray, Principal & Environment Practice Lead
Brian Zeiler-Kligman, Vice President
Sadaf Abbasi, Director
Naomi Shuman, Associate
Amanda DeYoung, Associate