Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

City of Ottawa staff have analyzed the local impacts of the province’s new housing bill, and their conclusions are grim

“If growth will not pay for growth, existing taxpayers will.”

Article content

Multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls, more money demanded of municipal taxpayers, and the erosion of quality of life, the natural environment, and infrastructure that Ottawa residents rely on.

Advertisement 2

Article content

These are just some of the local impacts threatened by the province’s More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23) and related proposals, according to a grim analysis prepared by city staff, in the name of hitting a provincially imposed housing target they say overshoots mightily the amount of housing the city actually needs.

Article content

Distributed to members of council, the staff comments sketch out an alarming picture of what the local aftermath could look like if the provincial housing legislation, poised to become law as early as this month, does pass as written.

While the City of Ottawa supports the overarching objective, “Bill 23 narrows the housing discussion to one of quantity and diminishes the critical role municipalities play in providing for quality and support for growth,” writes Don Herweyer, interim general manager of planning, real estate and economic development, in a memo sent to the mayor and councillors on Monday.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“In doing so, the bill risks creating a significant imbalance with the rest of the city — where new housing is developed absent the services, amenities and infrastructure needed for long-term success,” Herweyer wrote. “Other changes, such as the recovery of growth-related costs, will further widen the funding gap that already exists.

“As currently worded, the adoption of Bill 23 will mean conclusively that growth will not pay for growth, and the burden of supporting infrastructure necessitated by growth could be significantly delayed, levels of service degraded, and/or the costs passed on to existing municipal rate payers.”

Following the province’s More Homes Built Faster reveal, dropped the day after municipal elections throughout Ontario, staff from across Ottawa’s municipal bureaucracy began racing to understand its impacts and provide a city response, councillors were told the week of its unveiling.

Advertisement 4

Article content

The document that’s been produced is filled with one bleak assessment after another, as staff comment on various proposals contained within Bill 23 and related regulations and bulletins, and their potential local impacts.

In summarizing some of their concerns, Herweyer writes that “if growth will not pay for growth, existing taxpayers will.”

Staff say they can’t estimate fully how proposals by the province to cut back charges the city levies on new development will affect municipal coffers overall, with things like planned exemptions for “attainable” and “affordable” housing yet to be clearly defined by the province.

“As more exemptions or discounts to these fees and charges are created, the City will face pressure to reduce its services or find ways to fund them through another source. Currently the only other source would be existing rate taxpayers, or through higher (development charges) elsewhere,” staff write.

Advertisement 5

Article content

They have, however, tried to quantify the financial hit to the city in some areas. With new rules forcing cities to phase in new development charges over years, for instance, Ottawa could potentially lose somewhere in the range of $26 million a year in revenue.

The cost for growth-related studies, like groundwater studies and community infrastructure plans, is currently $1.5 million a year. The province is proposing to prevent cities from recovering these costs through development charges. Staff say these studies are made necessary by growth, and forcing the city to find other ways to pay for them “runs contrary to the idea that growth should pay for growth.

“A funding gap already exists for growth-related costs. The City cannot afford to subsidize development on the backs of its rate payers.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

Then, there’s the provincial plan to allow three units per residential lot, while exempting these new “gentle intensification” units from development charges. Staff write that this idea “significantly hinders the City’s ability to fund infrastructure renewal and ensure that parks, community facilities and local infrastructure keep pace with increasing pressures from new demand, particularly in existing neighbourhoods.

“It compromises the City’s ability to keep water and sewer systems in a state of good repair, despite the added pressure to the systems directly from the new units.”

People who want to take advantage of the new three-unit, one-lot permissions will be able to pursue building permits as soon as these sections of Bill 23 come into force. What could result, staff say, is “increased pressure for on-site parking, on-street parking, driveway widenings, front yard parking, and removal of trees in front and rear yards to provide parking areas, impacting the urban forest canopy and permeable surface area.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

“While infill zoning regulations to manage these issues are in place for lots inside the Greenbelt, there are limited controls in place for the suburban areas and villages where infill regulations do not apply.”

New provincial limits on the parkland or cash-in-lieu the city can demand from developers ­— after council just passed a new, more aggressive framework for this — “compromises livability, health and safety of intensified areas,” staff write. If the city wants to make up the difference by acquiring land or developing facilities through taxes, it means “an additional financial burden for municipal rate payers.”

Advertisement 8

Article content

Exemptions from a different type of charge applied to new development — called a community benefits charge — for provincially defined “affordable” and “attainable” units would cut into the city’s ability to provide said benefits in areas where those units are built, “disproportionately impacting low-income residents,” the city staff analysis reads.

A proposed change to the site plan control process, which the city uses to shape things like landscaping and exterior design on new developments and which the province now wants to significantly curtail, would “impact the City’s ability to create desirable streetscapes, attractive spaces and promote sustainable development.

It would also “eliminate the City’s ability to comment on and challenge the design merits of architectural and design proposals that do not properly consider context, for the city skyline, or its impact on the public realm” and compromise “the general community desire to ensure neighbourhood character is a cornerstone of planning review.”

Advertisement 9

Article content

Buildings are among the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and Herweyer’s memo notes that the proposed site plan change “severely restricts the ability of municipalities to require energy efficiency to be addressed in the design of new buildings.”

The city just enacted new high-performance development standards this year, over development industry objections, and Herweyer observes that the cost of more efficient, low-carbon buildings at the outset is “substantially lower than retrofitting buildings after construction,” and saves new homeowners on energy costs.

As for the natural environment, Herweyer writes that proposed changes to rural development policies, wetland and other natural heritage policies “emphasize growth expansion and rural residential development at the cost of natural habitats and biodiversity.”

Advertisement 10

Article content

“Reduced environmental oversight will result in the loss of diverse and mature ecosystems. This will have immediate and long-term environmental impacts, such as increased flooding risk.

And, he adds, “The changes are unnecessary.”

“Ottawa has demonstrated that housing needs can be accommodated with the balanced growth management scenario, resulting in better and more sustainable outcomes,” says Herweyer, a reference to the council-endorsed plan for more than half of new housing to be accommodated in existing neighbourhoods over the next quarter-century

In the realm of heritage, staff noted there are some 4,000 properties on the city’s heritage register, some with designated protections and others with the potential to receive these in the future. The provincial government is now proposing that non-designated properties must be removed after two years, if notice of an intention to designate hasn’t been issued by council, and that cities can only pursue a designation for a property in response to a specific development application if that property is on the register at the time. Currently, staff bring forward three to five designations a year.

Advertisement 11

Article content

“As written, Bill 23 will leave staff scrambling to assess which of the 4,000 properties are of highest significance and then bring forward designations, potentially against the will of the property owner,” staff wrote.

“At current resourcing levels, staff will not be able to accommodate the additional work required to be done in 2023-2024 and then potentially on an ongoing basis.”

What the provincial government says it’s trying to do with the dozens of changes laid out in its “More Homes” package is address the “housing supply crisis,” as Minister Steve Clark has described it, by hitting a target of 1.5 million new homes provincewide over the coming decade.

It’s a figure that emerged from the province’s housing affordability task force, comprised largely of housing industry voices, and is now shaping housing targets that have been assigned to various cities by the province. Ottawa’s is 151,000 new homes through 2031.

Advertisement 12

Article content

Herweyer writes that this target “is not aligned with Ottawa’s housing needs,” and is double the amount of new housing that the city has projected it will require as its population grows, over the same time period.

In the analysis document, it’s noted that staff have “requested clarification on how these targets were calculated and assigned to municipalities,” that they also exceed by 70 per cent what provincial ministry of finance population projections would suggest are necessary, and if the province is using construction starts as its metric, “then the target for Ottawa is too high.”

“Builders will not finance and construct units for them to sit vacant and unpurchased, especially with interest rate increases and other current economic factors.

Advertisement 13

Article content

“Further, this number of construction starts per year far exceeds historical precedent, which are determined not just by municipal approvals but also labour, material and equipment availability.”

Provincial committee hearings on More Homes Built Faster have been scheduled in the Greater Toronto Area and at Queens Park this week and next, but none are planned for Ottawa. The deadline for public comment, as well as the last hearing date, is Nov. 17. According to Herweyer’s memo, city staff will make a written submission.

The committee of MPPs studying the bill will then meet Nov. 21, until midnight, for clause-by-clause consideration, before it returns to the House for third reading and a final vote.

    Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

City of Ottawa staff have analyzed the local impacts of the province’s new housing bill, and their conclusions are grim Source link City of Ottawa staff have analyzed the local impacts of the province’s new housing bill, and their conclusions are grim

Related Articles

Back to top button