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Ford government prepares next round of legislation to build 1.5M homes by 2031

As Ontario Premier Doug Ford tours the province “handing out cheques right, left and centre” to municipalities that have hit their targets, his housing minister is finalizing the next round of homebuilding legislation.

Paul Calandra, who replaced Steve Clark as housing minister in 2023 after the Greenbelt scandal, said he expects to introduce his new bill “very soon.” The legislation is generally scheduled to appear every spring.

Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, Calandra said he thought he would unveil the new law after the finance minister tables the budget, which is scheduled for March 26.

“I think there are some issues the budget will help facilitate, so we’ll do it after,” he said.

Every year, the Ford government introduces a new Housing Supply Action Plan law to reform the building industry as it attempts to boost the supply of new housing to reach its lofty goal of 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

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A slide from the handover binder presented to Paul Calandra lays out the annual plan for housing supply laws in Ontario. Global News

Among the policies industry sources are waiting to hear about in the next round of housing legislation are rules or incentives that would allow four-unit developments to be built on sites across Ontario.

A Progressive Conservative source told Global News mandating four-unit developments as of right has long been considered within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as a tool to potentially boost housing. The source said it had been weighed in previous housing supply laws but had not made the final draft.

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Global News understands the government is still actively discussing the policy, which was recommended by the province’s housing affordability task force.

Calandra was asked if he planned to either force cities to allow four units as of right or to incentivize them to implement their own rules.

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“The Housing Supply Action Plan will be introduced very, very soon and everybody’s doing to have to wait not much long now,” the minister said at the beginning of the month.

“And we’ll have a very exciting plan being brought forth.”

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Calandra said the next round of housing legislation would be “very aggressive” but did not directly comment on the policy.

The federal government has been pushing through its own programs to get cities across the country to allow developers to build four units on a single property without seeking complicated rezoning permissions.

In the latter half of 2023, the federal government offered money to cities which made a series of reforms to local planning rules that should make it easier to build homes more quickly, with fewer bureaucratic steps.

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Mississauga, Ont., for example, was given $113 million by Ottawa in December after strong mayor powers were used to allow fourplexes anywhere in the city and four-storey homes near transit stations by default. Other cities, including Toronto, have done the same.

Calandra did not directly answer when asked if he thought cities that had greenlit four-unit development by default had done the right thing.

“As I said, we are going to be introducing a plan very soon which is the next phase of our Housing Supply Action Plan,” he said. “It will be very aggressive; it’s going to be about getting more homes built faster, it is going to be about  utilizing the infrastructure that we’ve put in the ground.”

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Municipalities in the province are also waiting to see if the new law will address their ongoing concerns, particularly a promise they would be “made whole” over reductions to the amount of money homebuilders have to give to city hall for new projects.

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Calandra previously cancelled audits into several municipalities — including Toronto, Brampton and Newmarket — that were designed to work out how much they lost from provincial rule changes and if cities were spending their money efficiently.

Speaking in February, he said “more will be coming very soon” on a promise to pay back cities for lost development charges, saying he was in the midst of reviewing Bill 23 and Bill 109, which both made major changes to how developers and cities interact.

“We said we would work with AMO on ensuring that our municipal partners have the funds that they need to provide the infrastructure as required with the 1.5 million homes we’re trying to build,” Calandra said on Feb. 21.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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