I have said many times that we need more housing and housing that people can afford. I support that the province wants to address this need and further bold actions already taken by Ottawa, but I have serious concerns about what this means for municipalities in Ontario, residents of Ottawa, and College Ward
This legislation makes housing a question of quantity and diminishes the important role municipalities play in providing for quality and support for growth. It also limits the City’s ability to fund growth by removing some development and parkland charges, compromising our ability to deliver a livable, resilient, and attractive City. Development charges are one-time fees on new residential and non-residential properties to help pay for a portion of the growth-related infrastructure requirements, like sewers and roads.
The More Homes Built Faster Act came as a surprise to Ottawa. As you may know, Council approved a new Official Plan (New OP) in October 2021 that set out a vision for increasing the density and diversity of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods. The New OP received provincial approval on November 4, 2022. Ottawa City Council approved a new Parks and Recreation Master Plan in October 2021, and a new Parkland Dedication By-law in July 2022. Staff are currently preparing Transportation and Infrastructure Master Plans, all needed to plan for the infrastructure, services, and amenities needed in our city.
Traffic and Parking
Under the Act, one of our greatest planning tools–background studies for services and infrastructure–is no longer an eligible use of development charges. The cost of studies is relatively small compared to the cost of implementation, and these studies save the City millions in capital and operating costs. If funding for studies is compromised, the City will be less able to “future-proof” growth to ensure traffic and transit stays smooth and safe. The More Homes Built Faster Act also prohibits regulating minimum parking requirements, likely leading to more on-street parking.
Intensification is familiar to us in College Ward, but with this new Act, the City is limited in managing how this happens. It overrides some zoning by-laws, such as those regulating minimum unit size, and now allows for up to three units in a house. Municipalities can no longer seek details about exterior design or landscaping features, unless related to matters of heath, safety and accessibility through Site Plan Control, the process that allows the City to influence development so that it is safe, functional and orderly. Buildings of up to 10 residential units will be exempt from Site Plan Control entirely.
City staff believe the financial impact to Ottawa from the The More Homes Built Faster Act is in the range of $26 million annually. If growth will not pay for growth, taxpayers will. A funding gap already exists for growth-related costs, making it more difficult to fund renewal and ensure parks, community facilities, and services keep pace with new demand, especially in existing neighbourhoods, like those in College Ward. Without new revenue sources, improvements could be delayed, levels of services reduced, or have the costs passed on to taxpayers.
The More Homes Built Faster Act affects Ottawa’s ability to take care of our historic buildings and neighbourhoods. Right now, staff bring forward a handful of designations each year and they maintain a list of about 4000 properties on a heritage register that are not designated (protected by law). New limits to the heritage register, and changes to what can be designated, will make it more difficult for the City to address reconciliation, equity, and diversity in its heritage program and will likely also result in greater uncertainty for owners and residents, leading to more formal and costly appeals.
Parks and Recreation
Reduced funding from development growth for parks affects the City’s ability to provide and improve recreational services needed for functional and enjoyable neighbourhoods. Changes to the fees which supported these amenities and services will require the City to reevaluate its existing plans, adding more costs to Ottawa. For example, new caps on parkland would impact stormwater management and may require the reopening of master servicing studies to avoid flooding.
Water Management and the Natural Environment
Working with our local conservation authorities, the City of Ottawa has shown that balanced growth leads to better and more sustainable outcomes. These conservation authorities, who provide responsibility and oversight, have been amended under the Act. This, combined with changes to rural development policies, wetland and other environmental policies, and the emphasis on growth expansion, will have long-term impacts such as increased flooding risk and the loss of diverse and mature ecosystems.
As we learn more details about the The More Homes Built Faster Act, I will be providing you with updates.
In my opinion, the Bill is not going to help build affordable housing, but it will impact available services and property taxes. I’m pleased to say that the City of Ottawa – elected members and staff alike – are committed to doing what we can to mitigate the harmful aspects of the bill. I encourage you to reach out to your MPP, and do not hesitate to contact my office.