TORONTO — Ontario municipalities are concerned that parts of the province’s recent housing laws may very well hamper growth and download excessive burdens to them and their taxpayers.
One aspect of a giant bill introduced Tuesday by Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark would freeze, reduce and exempt fees developers pay so as to spur constructing.
Inexpensive housing, non-profit housing and inclusionary zoning units — meaning inexpensive housing in recent developments — in addition to some “attainable” units could be exempt from various charges.
But those fees go to municipalities to pay for services for residents of those homes, equivalent to roads, community centres and transit.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario said in an announcement that the proposed changes “may contradict the goal of constructing more housing in the long run.”
“Unless fully offset by funding to support growth-related projects, reductions in these fees will shift the financial burden of growth-related infrastructure onto existing municipal taxpayers,” the association wrote.
Green party leader Mike Schreiner said the province must fund that lost revenue or it’ll be residents who should foot the bill.
“If the province fails to step up to exchange development charges they’re essentially calling for a tax increase on property taxpayers on this province,” he said after query period Wednesday.
“Municipalities are going to have to exchange that revenue and really the one tool they’ve to exchange it’s to chop services or to boost property taxes.”
In response to an issue from the NDP about it Wednesday, Clark said municipalities have $8 billion in development charge reserves.
“We’re going to proceed to work with our municipal partners,” he said in query period. “We’re also going to work with the federal government on their $4-billion Housing Accelerator Fund. We expect that might help municipalities as well.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the removal of those development charges could cost town lots of of tens of millions of dollars.
“What we are able to’t afford to see occur is to see one government make guarantees and pay for it with someone else’s money,” Tory said at a press conference.
“These charges we collect should not just charges that go into the final revenue stream. They’re charges which can be specifically allocated to things that have to get built under the principle of growth paying for growth.”
Tory said he’s supportive of “the thrust” of what the laws seeks to do but is “very concerned” concerning the development charges aspect.
“We’re able where we would like to spur housing,” he said.
“(Latest buildings) should have sewers to remove the wastewater. They should have water to provide those buildings. They should have roads and transit to attach those buildings as much as the remaining of town and people were and are paid for partially by development charges.”
The Ontario Big City Mayors group said it welcomed the bill but wants the general public comment period on regulatory changes prolonged to enable further discussion.
“There are some very positive things in here, and there are some items that may require further review, equivalent to the impact of removing development charges,” Cam Guthrie, mayor of Guelph, and chair of OBCM said in an announcement.
“We look ahead to further discussions with Minister Clark and his colleagues on these matters before laws is passed.”
The federal government’s housing plan is geared toward hitting a goal of constructing 1.5 million homes in 10 years. It also proposes to permit more units on one residential lot, introduce more housing density near transit stations, reduce the property tax burden for multi-residential apartment buildings, and pursue rent-to-own programs.