Ontario’s New Housing Supply Action Plan: An Architect Weighs In


On May 2nd, the Government of Ontario announced a new plan to address some of the many factors preventing Ontarians from access to affordable housing. Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choices Act) is a landmark step in helping to improve housing supply and affordability in Ontario. But not everyone is on board. This plan has received both criticism and support from parties across the housing and development industry. Before you pick a side, here’s a summary of the 5 main goals the provincial government is hoping to achieve with the new bill:

Speeding up approval process


Thanks to the complicated and lengthy approval process, it can take years to get development started. Right now,over 30,000 residential units in 100 projects proposed within Toronto are awaiting Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) outcomes. This delay can last for several years and only serves to drive up costs for buyers. The aim is to speed up the approval process by making it less complicated and hiring more adjudicators to address the backlog. 

Making the development fees more predictable


There are many factors that create unanticipated costs and make the industry more expensive than it needs to be. Permits, approvals and development charges add to the cost of building new homes. This is especially the case for mid and high rise buildings, which are more expensive to build, yet are important in creating more housing options. The plan aims at making the costs more predictable for developers who might have otherwise been discouraged from developing these larger buildings. For example: section 37 (community benefits) that is a negotiable piece of the development process that not only increase the process length but also the uncertainty. The province is proposing to make section 37 formula-based. Currently in Toronto there are 140,441 approved but unbuilt residential units and an additional 167,309 units currently under review (that is, according to the City’s report 540,000 people who could be housed).

Ensuring a variety of unit types


The act aims to address issues that both home owners and developers face.

  • For home owners: With new policies in place, municipalities will be required to allow the building of secondary suites (laneway suites, coach houses) on the same property and in an ADU (accessible dwelling unit). Plus, these secondary units will be exempt from development charges.
  • For developers: The plan includes changes like introducing revisions to the use of inclusionary zoning in development near transit (mostly Subway and GO Stations)

Related Read: Toronto’s New Laneway Suite Pilot – How Does It Work?

Creating more affordable rent opportunities


Home ownership is not a realistic option for many individuals and couples. But as the population expands, we’re finding that the short supply of rental units cannot keep up with the demand. The bill works to protect the rights of tenants while creating greater incentives to develop rental units that keep up with the demand.

Not letting the government stand in the way of innovation


The act aims to encourage more innovation and creativity when it comes to house designs and materials, as well as innovative approaches to home ownership like co-owned senior homes. 

Opposition to the plan

Not everyone is optimistic about the plan. The City of Toronto’s City Planning division issued a report describing their doubts. Councillors and many City planners say Bill 108 threatens the liveability of communities across Ontario. The tools to ensure cities can secure parks to support growth will basically disappear. In their report, they claim that the Bill has very limited evidence that it will actually be able to achieve its objectives of creating more accessible and affordable housing options. In their opinion, the plan will effectively slow the City down from making their own amendments to existing regulations. 

Regardless of whether we believe the plan will prove to be successful, it’s a great step forward in acknowledging the housing crisis that Ontarians face and hopefully finding a solution that works for all parties.

Naama Blonder is an architect and co-founder of Smart Density, a Toronto-based architecture and urban design firm. She leads her team to find creative solutions to the current housing crisis and make Toronto a more livable, inclusive city. Sheserved on the OAA Affordable Housing Panel and continues to use her game UrbanBlocks to help educate communities about mixed-use, high-density development.