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.
The bill proposes to change the Development Charges Act (DCA), which enables municipalities to impose charges on new development to pay for services such as roads, water and public works. Bill 108 proposes to narrow the range of services for which these fees can be imposed in order to align with the new Community Benefits Authority (CBA) that will fund soft services like daycare centres and libraries. Development charges would then be imposed for certain hard services, like water, roads and transit. These changes make upfront development costs more predictable and transparent, benefiting the new home buyers who ultimately pay for these costs.
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 homes 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.
Rental housing is not left out. To support a range and mix of housing, changes in Bill 108 allow for the deferral of development charges for rental and not-for-profit housing until occupancy. Payment then occurs over five years, and the development charge rates will be frozen 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.
An overall focus on speeding development and reducing duplication is woven throughout Bill 108 and gives communities, and the development industry, more confidence about what and where they can build.
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It can take years before shovels break ground on a new housing project, partly due to duplication in some government policies and processes. Administrative red tape slows projects that can face dozens of municipal, regional and provincial studies, reports, checklists, plans and standards required for approvals. 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, Bill 108 now makes it easier and faster to build more housing, including affordable housing, near transit where investments have been made in infrastructure to support growth. 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 discussion. We should all remember that the changes encourage 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.
David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and a contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bildgta
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