Durham Region Chair voices his criticisms of Ford’s Bill 23

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Published November 16, 2022 at 11:00 am

Premier Doug Ford’s More Homes Built Faster legislation has earned its share of criticism for its narrow focus on eliminating red tape to speed up construction and for eliminating protection of the environment.

Durham Region Chair John Henry said Bill 23 also has other negative consequences, notably the removal of regions from their traditional role in housing decisions.

“(Bill 23) has proposed numerous changes to the Planning Act and Development Charges Act that, if passed, will significantly impact how municipal governments plan for, and recover the costs associated with growth. It has unintended consequences and widespread implications that impact all Ontarians economically, socially and environmentally.”

One of the key changes in the legislation is the elimination of development charges from what the Province deems “affordable” housing while changing the definition of what that is to 80 per cent of market value, meaning a home in Durham valued at $700,000-$800,000 could now be considered ‘affordable.’

“We welcome growth. It strengthens our communities and we have been planning for it in a thoughtful, strategic manner. We have a vision for transit-oriented development, with public transit at the heart of future communities. We need to provide all services for our communities as cost-effectively as possible, so that they can grow and thrive,” Henry said. “(But) we believe that growth should pay for growth. Development charges have traditionally been collected to fund large infrastructure projects required for new builds. Without them, municipalities are forced to cover the costs through increased property taxes and water and sewer rates—a burden on existing residents and businesses.”

Bill 23 also severely handcuffs local conservation authorities and the public from any effective lobbying against, say, housing projects on environmentally sensitive lands, he added.

“We welcome potential changes to help streamline processes – while increasing housing availability, rental and affordable housing – but there are concerns,” Henry noted. “Housing has been a Durham Regional Council priority for some time. First and foremost, we know that housing is a basic human right. Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. But successful urban planning also requires a vision—a bigger picture. It’s about shaping communities that balance growth, services and protecting our environment for our residents. We need to protect our wetlands to mitigate flooding; and to take care of the woodlands that support the air we breathe. Ensuring a safe, prosperous and healthy future is what we have been elected to do.”

“It’s the foundation of our Regional Official Plan, and the basis for Envision Durham—our vision for growth to 2051.”

Added to all that is the recent announcement from Housing Minister Steve Clark that 7,400 acres of the greenbelt – lands that Ford promised he wouldn’t touch – have been thrown back into the housing mix in exchange for 9,400 acres of mostly unusable valley lands and you have a recipe for environmental chaos.

At the least, Henry said, Ford and his team should tweak the legislation so it benefits everyone in the province, not just developers.

“For years, municipal leaders from across Ontario have been working together to address increasing housing supply and affordability issues within our communities. We’ve made investments; offered innovative solutions; and carefully considered available land options for future developments that help to meet the specific needs of our communities,” Henry said.

“We encourage the province to engage in further dialogue with municipalities and residents to help ensure the environment—and the health and safety of all Ontarians—remains at the forefront.”

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