More Homes, More Choice… More Density: Ontario’s housing plan takes effect

June 25, 2019 | Eric Laxton

Addressing supply-side economics, the province approves plans for Toronto’s Downtown and Yonge-Eglinton areas and Bill 108 comes into force.

On June 6, 2019, Bill 108, referred to as the More Homes, More Choice Act (the “Bill”), was passed by the government of Ontario.  Many of the provisions, however, will only come into force on an unspecified, later date.  It is expected that the implementing regulations will be released in the fall.  In case you missed it, you can read our previous articles about Bill 108 and Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan HERE and HERE.  The Bill itself and the explanatory notes can be read HERE.

Also as of June 6, 2019, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (the “Minister”) approved the Secondary Plans for Toronto’s Downtown and Yonge-Eglinton areas, with modifications.

The Yonge-Eglinton Official Plan Amendment (part of the “Midtown in Focus” initiative) and the Downtown Plan Official Plan Amendment (part of the “TOcore” initiative) were submitted by Toronto City Council to the Minister for approval (collectively the “Plans”).  The Midtown in Focus Secondary Plan was a response to the rapid intensification of the area, and as originally drafted by City staff would have supported greater density by reducing set back requirements and increasing building heights.  The plan also sought to protect existing parks and open spaces by limiting the effects of shadows from new buildings.  The TOcore plan follows what has been an unprecedented period of growth and development in Toronto’s downtown and was aimed at producing “Complete Communities”, including scale, location and linkages between growth areas.

The modifications by the Minister were intended to provide additional flexibility to facilitate site-specific solutions, to reflect recent and potential changes to the land use planning system (particularly the reforms introduced through the Bill), and to address the province’s commitment to increasing housing supply.

Though the ink has barely dried on the Minister’s decision on the Plans, we have already heard of applications that are being revisited to meet the targets for increased density, adding additional storeys and revised floorplates to projects.  The policy initiatives seem to be having the desired effect of encouraging builders to bring more units on stream, which, if basic economic principles of supply and demand hold true, can be expected to result in downward pressure on pricing, improving affordability in the market.

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