Updated (June 6, 2019):
This week, Bill 108 passed third reading at Queen’s Park and received Royal Assent. It is now law in Ontario. There remain many concerns about the passing of this bill, and conflicting information circulating about its overall impact. Last week, we did some fact checking on the Province’s claims.
In many cases, details about the actual impact to development charges and community benefits have yet to be released by the Province. That means its not too late to contact our MPP and share your concerns.
With the passing of Bill 108, the Province also announced that it would be tearing up the City’s plans to manage growth in mid-town and downtown Toronto. These changes reduce requirements for office space, protections over parkland and provisions to build community services. The changes also set a dangerous precedent for Willowdale, which similar to mid-town and downtown, shares stations along the Yonge subway.
John is meeting with colleagues at City Hall as well as City Planning staff to discuss options to resist such planning demands without any kind of cooperation or consultation with the City.
Original Post: Premier to Open the Floodgates on Development (May 12, 2019):
Picture Willowdale with many more highrises, mostly in places you weren’t expecting them. Now imagine that same picture without new parks and city services such as child care and community centres.
That bleak image is what we’ll be facing if the Province proceeds with new development rules that could have been written by the development industry.
Bill 108, as the new legislation is known, brings back the much maligned Ontario Municipal Board. The new rules also greatly decrease the amount developers will contribute for the infrastructure and community facilities needed to handle the increased population.
While some details of the new legislation remain deliberately murky, here’s a snapshot of what you need to know:
Before we were even out from under its shadow, the Province has brought back the widely discredited Ontario Municipal Board – somewhat disguised with a new name (LPAT). This provincially-appointed body has the final say on all development decisions in Ontario, which is the only province which has such a body. Almost every time the City tries to prevent bad development, the OMB habitually sides with developers and approves it. In Willowdale, this brings us much more development than the area can handle. In fact, our community is already well past the Province’s residential growth target for 2041.
Recently, the OMB ruled against the City and its residents on a major development on Yonge and two more on Sheppard West. All three were approved at more than twice the size allowed by City rules; the two Sheppard decisions caused even greater harm by moving the redevelopment area beyond the main street and into the neighbourhood.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the Province is also removing the right of residents and residents’ associations to appeal Planning decisions.
Developers Will Pay Much Less
Currently, developers are required to make financial contribution every time they build a large project.
Mandatory payments know as Development Charges help pay for city-wide infrastructure to handle a growing population, so that city taxpayers aren’t overburdened. These would, for example, contribute to the construction of an interchange to ease congestion at Yonge & 401.
Contributions known as Section 37 stay in the community to build local facilities. Projects which I have been able to plan and build, using Section 37 dollars, include Edithvale Community Centre and city-funded child care centres at Churchill, McKee and Avondale schools and at Lansing United Church. A soon-to-be-opened Family Resource Centre and child care centre at the Sheppard Centre were funded entirely from Section 37 contributions.
Every development pays towards the cost of land for new parks. This parkland contribution, known as Section 42, was used to create every new park we’ve opened in Willowdale for at least 30 years.
Now the Province wants to dump all these separate funds into one pot, known as the Community Benefits Charge. While details about this fund are still fuzzy, the following appears to be the case: total contributions from developers will be greatly reduced; the money will be distributed city wide rather than earmarked for areas such as Willowdale where the development occurs; most of the money is required to be spent in the year in which it is collected, meaning no money for projects such as Edithvale Community Centre, for which I saved Section 37 money 12 years; it will be difficult to get any new parkland.
For those who live north of Drewry or Cummer, I am particularly concerned that we will be stuck with large amounts of development in this area but with no funding to provide services the area will need.
But They Say it’s to Fix the Housing Crisis
Premier Doug Ford would have you believe that giving developers more money leads to the construction of more housing units, which in turn makes housing more affordable. If this were true, why does Willowdale, with OMB-driven overdevelopment for the past 15 years, have rents that are among the highest in the city? That’s because development created in this way does not lead to less expensive units.
Here’s why: By continually dismissing the city’s Planning rules, I believe the OMB encourages runaway land speculation in areas like Willowdale. This raises land prices so high that the end users don’t benefit from the increased supply. Making housing more affordable requires policies that dampen land speculation and encourage construction in under-developed parts of the city where land is less expensive. Creating truly affordable housing also requires the Province to contribute towards it, as have the federal and city governments.
Stand Up for Your Community
Together with other provincial legislation which decimates Toronto Public Health, eliminates thousands of subsidized child care spaces, and leaves the city with a budget hole that will require unacceptably large tax hikes or unacceptable cuts in services, the Planning changes will weaken in our community in many ways. The changes have been proposed so quickly – in some cases retroactively and almost always without consultation – that we are still struggling to understand their full impact.
Contact your local MPP, Stan Cho by e-mail here (and please copy John at firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone to the MPP’s constituency office at 416-733-7878. The Province of Ontario will formally be collecting comments on Bill 108 until June 1, 2019. You can submit your comments here.
John is hosting a Town Hall Meeting with Councillors Carroll and Robinson on Monday, May 27, 2019 at 7:00 PM at Earl Haig SS (100 Princess Ave). This is an opportunity to learn more and voice your concerns. Local MPPs are also invited. Please consider joining us for this important community event.