What Bill 108 means for housing affordability in the GTA
Bill 108, the More Homes, More Choice Act, received Royal Assent on June 6. The policy changes are intended to improve housing affordability in the GTA by ensuring cost certainty for development projects, reducing red tape and shortening the time frame for land use approvals. This will enable the delivery, more quickly, of more quality places to live and work.
Let’s take a look at the changes to the Development Charges Act (DCA), which enables municipalities to impose charges on development to pay for municipal services such as roads, water and public works. Bill 108 proposes to narrow the range of services for which development charges can be imposed in order to align with the new Community Benefits Authority (CBA), which will fund soft services like daycare centres and libraries. Development charges would then be imposed for certain hard services, like water, roads and transit. Changes to the DCA will also increase predictability for the industry and for consumers by allowing for development charges to be locked in earlier in the development process.
The government’s key objective in introducing changes to the DCA is to make housing more affordable and provide more certainty about some of the costs associated with building housing in the GTA. Development charges account for approximately 10 per cent of the cost of a new home across the GTA and have been rising quickly. These changes make upfront development costs more predictable and transparent, benefiting the new home buyers who ultimately pay for these costs in the price of a new home.
Rental housing is not left out. In order to support a range and mix of housing, including new rental buildings, changes allow for the deferral of development charges for rental housing and not-for-profit housing until occupancy, with payment occurring over five years, and freeze development charge rates at an earlier point in time. This provides an incentive, and reduces barriers, to build rental and not-for-profit housing by allowing for an amortization of some of the upfront costs over a period of time.
An overall focus on speeding development and reducing duplication is woven throughout Bill 108 and gives communities and the development industry more confidence on what they can build and where they can build it. It can take years before shovels can break ground on a new housing project. Some government policies and processes are duplicated and can create delays for no reason, which drives up costs for new home buyers. Complex administrative red tape can slow down developments as a project can face dozens of municipal, regional and provincial studies, reports, checklists, plans and standards required as conditions of approvals, many duplicate. This is in part why it takes 11 years to complete a lowrise project and 10 years to complete a highrise project in the GTA.
Lastly, the changes provide more clarity when it comes to being able to build denser communities near transit nodes, in areas where it makes sense due to investments in infrastructure that have been made to support growth. It will now be easier and faster to build more housing, including affordable housing, near transit. Municipalities will get help to implement community planning permit systems near major station areas and provincially significant employment zones, which will streamline planning approvals to 45 days. Transit supportive housing just makes good planning sense.
As the government moves toward developing regulations to support Bill 108, there will undoubtedly be lots of discussions. It would serve us well to remember that the changes are about encouraging more housing that the region desperately needs, in the right mix, quicker, near transit and at a price the average resident can afford. It’s hard to argue with that.
Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). bild.ca