Skip to content

Ontario's Bill 23 - Time to Listen Up!

Coronation Park Residents' Association President Pamela Knight explains the impact of Bill 23, including rising property taxes, environmental destruction, and loss of farmland, among many others.
Raychel Sanner on Unsplash
Raychel Sanner on Unsplash

On Oct. 25, one day after the Municipal Election, the province introduced Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, with the stated goal of constructing 1.5 million new homes in Ontario by 2031. Just a month later, it was passed by the Province of Ontario Legislature on Nov. 28, 2022.

This omnibus bill and the additional legislation accompanying it represent sweeping changes to multiple Acts and policies.

  • They remove and weaken environmental protections.
  • They diminish the role of Ontarians in land use planning and decision-making.
  • They give the Minister the power to override municipal planning decisions (e.g., amend municipal Official Plans) and impose development.
  • We will lose thousands of hectares of farmland and thousands more from Ontario's Greenbelt, which represents 2 million acres of protected land comprising farmland, forests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes.

And that's just the beginning.

At the outset, let's all understand some facts. The province justifies all of its measures based on the statement that we are in a housing crisis, and in order to solve it, we must add 1.5 million homes in Ontario over the next 10 years. BUT...

  • We aren't in a housing crisis; we're in an affordable housing crisis.
  • The province, not developers, is the best-equipped body to build affordable housing. Allowing developers to build what they want, where they want, when they want and at a price they decide is not an answer.
  • Throughout the GT&HA, thousands of hectares of existing land are marked for development that developers have not touched. The province's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's own report stated the following - ... "a shortage of land isn’t the cause of the problem. Land is available, both inside the existing built-up areas and on undeveloped land outside greenbelts".

Please take the time to read the information below that we've pulled together from a range of sources - cities, economists, environmentalists and others. Lots of links are included to round out the information.

What Bill 23 means to Oakville

As so many Acts and policies are affected by this legislation, here's an FAQ approach to common questions.

Why would my property taxes increase? 

This aspect of the legislation is quite complex, and you are urged to educate yourself on the actual details. The following is a simplified example.

Before a new neighbourhood is built infrastructure such as roads, lighting for those roads, stormwater systems, water, and sanitary sewers must all be in place. These important pieces of infrastructure are supplied by the municipality/region, and the money to create them comes from Development Charges.

Development Charges (DCs) are one-time fees collected from residential and non-residential land developers that municipalities use to pay for roads, transit, libraries and other city services. The common phrase for this is 'growth pays for growth'.

One of the things Bill 23 does is reduce the development charges fee a municipality can charge. In turn, this creates an infrastructure funding gap between the collection of development charges and the financing required for growth-related capital projects needed to proceed with new development.

Unless provincial grants are made to municipalities to recover that revenue, the municipality must recover it through the tax base or through reducing service levels. Either way, the people who pay will be those who are already residents within the municipality.

How will Conservation Halton be affected? 

With changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the removal of lands from the Greenbelt, impacts on the environment are significant. These natural features are needed to help us adapt to a changing climate.

The possibility of building on flood and hazard lands is concerning, given increased storm events and potential liabilities.

Conservation Ontario - We are concerned that these changes will not meet the goals for increasing housing supplies and will instead increase risks to life and property for Ontario residents. Bill 23 will:

  • Weaken the ability of conservation authorities to continue protecting people and property from natural hazards
  • Place new responsibilities on municipalities related to natural hazards and natural resources that they are unprepared and under-resourced to tackle
  • Diminish the ability to protect critical natural infrastructure like wetlands that reduce flooding and protect water quality in lakes and rivers

The proposed changes to delegate conservation authority regulatory responsibility to individual municipalities are contrary to the core mandate of conservation authorities and may put additional people – and their homes – at more risk.

The ability of conservation authorities to regulate development in hazardous areas is critical for successful emergency preparedness response in order to prevent the worst outcomes.

Municipalities have successfully relied on the benefits of a long-standing conservation authority partnership which has used local watershed science to guide decision-making.

Read an Important Post from Environmental Defence

How is Halton Regional government affected? 

Bill 23 took dead aim at the Region of Halton:

  • The Regional Official Plan Amendment 49, undertaken and approved, has now been repealed by the province. That means the 5,000 acres of farmland that were saved by the Plan are now back on the chopping block.
  • To ensure its will would prevail, the government has accompanied our overturned Regional Official Plan with a four-word notice, “Appeals are Not Allowed.” These moves erode our democratic rights.
  • But even this was not enough. Under the guise of Bill 23 and a subsequent act portrayed as ‘Better Municipal Governance,’ Halton Region has been stripped of its planning authority and will now be given a provincially-appointed overlord. It is said this ‘facilitator’ will assess the municipal governments within Halton region to determine ‘the best mix’ of roles and responsibilities between the upper and lower-tier municipalities and ensure they are equipped to deliver on the government’s commitment to building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years. 

Halton Region has provided input and responses to the provincial changes. Read a complete overview here.

Does this affect residents' rights? 

Bill 23 not only affects residents' rights, it lessens the abilities of our municipality to ensure livability. The following are a few highlights:

  • It caps the amount developers contribute to new parkland. The maximum amount of land that can be conveyed or paid in lieu is capped at 10% of the land or its value for sites under 5 ha and 15 % for sites greater than 5 ha. Encumbered parkland/strata parks, as well as privately owned publicly accessible spaces (POPS), are eligible for parkland credits.
  • Public meetings will no longer be required for applications for approval of a draft plan of subdivision.
  • Residents will no longer be able to appeal minor variance approvals.
  • Developments of up to 10 residential units will be exempted from site plan control. Architectural details and landscape design aesthetics will be removed from the scope of the site plan control.
  • As-of-right zoning to permit up to three residential units per lot (two in the main building and one in an accessory building) with no minimum unit sizes. New units built under this permission would be exempt from development charges and parkland requirements, and no more than one additional parking space can be required.
  • Municipalities will not be permitted to issue a notice of intention to designate a property under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act unless the property is already on the heritage register when the current 90-day requirement for Planning Act applications is triggered.

If your local residents' association gains party status at a hearing, the Tribunal will have increased powers to order costs against a party which loses a hearing at the Tribunal.

What about housing affordability? 

As noted in the report by N. Barry Lyon Consultants in 2019 entitled Development Costs Review: The Effect of Development-Related Costs on Housing Affordability  - developers will price housing at the maximum level the market will support, and increases/decreases in fees do not affect the sale price of units. Lost revenue leads to increased property taxes that reduce affordability overall.

Each year, Halton Region prepares a publication called "State of Housing Report." For years, it has used the following guideline to define Affordable Housing: Affordable housing is housing with a market price (for purchase) or rent that is affordable to households of low and moderate-income, spending no more than 30 per cent of their gross household income on housing, without government assistance. 

Thus, affordability has been based on the ability to pay.

Bill 23 has an alternate take on Affordable Housing. It describes affordable housing as a residential unit, not intended for use as a rented residential premises, that meets the following criteria: The price of the residential unit is no greater than 80 per cent of the average purchase price, as determined in accordance with subsection (6). 

Calling a home that is priced at 80% of the market price affordable is ludicrous. Read More Here.

More Details on Affordable Housing at the Jan 2022 Housing Summit

What can we do to save farms? 

Ontario Farmland Trust Currently, Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland every day (Statistics Canada, 2021). Bill 23 will significantly reduce protections for farmland in provincial land planning, making way for sprawling development instead of sustainable communities. In order for future generations of Ontarians to have access to fresh, local food, Ontario’s farmland must be protected. 

"With the current rate of farmland loss, Ontario’s farmland will be completely lost in the next 100 years". 

Ontario Federation of Agriculture - Once a farm is turned into a shopping centre, or warehouse, or subdivision, it will never be a farm again. We lose the food that was grown on that land permanently. Significant wetlands, key shorelines, and forests are threatened by urban sprawl. We have to protect our landscapes and water before we lose it to development.

What are other municipalities saying? 

Here are comments from our neighbour municipalities

Mississauga - Why you can’t afford Bill 23

Ontario’s new legislation, More Homes Built Faster Act, has serious impacts on your quality of life.

  • Bill 23 could result in the loss of almost $1 billion in City revenue.
  • Bill 23 doesn't guarantee that new or more affordable homes will be built.
  • Bill 23 means less funding to build affordable housing.
  • Bill 23 means less parkland, and developers choose where parks go.
  • Bill 23 sacrifices the environment, heritage, and greenbelt lands.

 Listen to Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie below.

READ: City of Burlington Response to Severe Impacts of Bill 23

City of Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward:

“Bill 23 will devastate municipal finances and our ability to fund things such as parks, community centres, transit -- all the amenities a growing community needs. Those costs will be shifted from for-profit developers to taxpayers. We’ll show that as a line item on your next tax bill.

There is no guarantee that savings will be passed on to buyers or that buyers are first-time homebuyers and not investors. This will simply deliver profit on the backs of residents without doing anything to increase housing supply and affordability."

Call to action

Bill 23 and the associated pieces of legislation that accompany it represent a deliberately calculated demolition of local governments, systematic stripping of municipal powers and an unprecedented suppression of citizens’ rights.

Our local Members of Parliament have consequential decisions ahead. Will they support the rights of their constituents or support a government that has clearly chosen a path that demeans and devalues them in favour of land developers and private businesses?

While Bill 23 has been passed, there are still ongoing meetings, hearings, etc. Oakville staff have provided an Overview of the Bill here.

The Big Tent Statement on Bill 23 and the Greenbelt represented by Spokespeople Anne Golden (former Chair, Task Force on the Future of the GTA), David Crombie (Friends of the Golden Horseshoe), Geordie Dent (Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association), Max Hansgen (President, National Farmers Union - Ontario), Margaret Prophet (Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition) and Tim Gray (Environmental Defence Canada) clearly lays out the situation at hand.

The signatories to the document are from diverse sectors – agriculture, land use planning, liveable cities, environment, labour, healthcare and housing – who are coming together to speak with one voice. They are doing so because of the scale of the threats represented by the government’s attacks on planning and environmental protection.

Take time now to tell your MPP that you oppose Bill 23 and want it repealed. Tell your MPP you oppose the removal of ANY land from the Greenbelt.

Let your Oakville MPP know what you think

Stephen Crawford - MPP for Oakville

Effie Triantafilopoulos - MPP for Oakville North-Burlington