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Ontario needs to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade, increase housing density and reduce red tape in order to address the province’s affordability crisis.

Those are some of the 55 recommendations released this week by the province’s Housing Affordability Task Force, which was appointed by the Doug Ford government late last year.

“For too long, we have focused on solutions to ‘cool’ the housing market. It is now clear that we do not have enough homes to meet the needs of Ontarians today, and we are not building enough to meet the needs of our growing population,” the report reads.

“If this problem is not fixed – by creating more housing to meet the growing demand – housing prices will continue to rise.”

The key recommendations put forward by the nine-member panel focus on increasing housing density, as well as reducing and streamlining urban design rules and reducing red tape.

“We are in a housing crisis and that demands immediate and sweeping reforms,” Jake Lawrence, CEO of Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets and chair of the task force, wrote in a letter attached to the report.

Some of the key recommendations include:

The top recommendation from the task force is simple: build more homes…1.5 million of them in the next 10 years.

In 2020, however, there were just 75,000 new housing units completed

The task force also noted that land inside of cities is “tied up by outdated rules.” It’s estimated that 70% of land zoned for housing in Toronto is restricted to single-detached or semi-detached homes.

“This type of zoning prevents homeowners from adding additional suites to create housing for Ontarians and income for themselves,” the report reads, adding that this is pushing growth past urban boundaries and turning farmland into housing.

It therefore calls for more “modernized” zoning, which would allow for “more gentle density” that would make better use of roads, water and wastewater systems.

By comparison, it says Toronto has a population density of just 450 people per square kilometre vs. 1,700 in New York, 1,800 in London and 4,200 in Tokyo.

  • Limit “exclusionary zoning” in municipalities by
    • allowing residential housing of up to four units and up to four storeys on a single residential lot.
    • allowing conversion of underutilized commercial properties to residential or mixed use.
    • permitting secondary suites, garden suites and lane-way houses province-wide.
    • allowing multi-tenant housing (renting rooms within dwellings) province-wide.
    • encouraging and incentivizing municipalities to increase density in areas with excess school capacity.
  • Allow zoning up to unlimited height and unlimited density in the immediate proximity of major transit stations
  • Allow zoning of six to 11 storeys with no minimum parking requirements on any streets used by public transit

Cut red tape, task force says

Many of the recommendations fall under the theme of cutting red tape and speeding up the approval process for new housing units.

The report notes that of the 35 OECD countries, only the Slovak Republic takes longer than Canada to approve a building project.

In fact, a 2020 survey of 23 Canadian cities found many Ontario communities lagging (Toronto ranked 17th and Ottawa ranked 21st) when it comes to approval times, which average 20 to 24 months. The report added this doesn’t include the time for building permits, which can take up to two years for an apartment building.

“Despite the good intentions of many people involved in the approvals and home-building process, decades of dysfunction in the system and needless bureaucracy have made it too difficult for housing approvals to keep up with the needs of Ontarians,” the task force noted.

While the overarching goal of building 1.5 million new housing units over the next decade is ambitious, the task force says it’s needed to address the level of demand in the province, which it says will, in turn, reduce buyer competition and improve housing affordability.

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