Bill 108 – Return of the OMB

The OMB Reform working group started a few years ago as a grass roots movement among municipal leaders to bring long awaited change to a flawed system for land use planning. Working with residents, ratepayers, community groups and municipal councils and staff across this province, we brought forward recommendations that informed the provincial legislative review and led to meaningful change in the legislative framework for land-use planning decisions. And that hard work is now under threat.

Today the members of the OMB reform group have gotten together once again to have some initial discussions about Bill 108, its impacts and implications for our communities.

The abolishment of the OMB and replacement with LPAT represented thoughtful, informed, evidence based policy development. It’s why the legislation received unanimous – all party support. All parties recognized that local governments should have the authority to uphold their provincially approved Official Plans; to uphold their community driven planning.
All Parties recognized that as municipal councils are the front line workers of elected government, that local governments should have the authority to exercise greater control over planning matters in their own communities.

This Bill is a reversal of that hard fought recognition.

There is a crisis in housing affordability in our province, but it isn’t one of supply its one of demand. Demands made by a for profit driven building industry that doesn’t just want to change the rules, it wants to rewrite them entirely.

As a consequence what’s being supplied isn’t what’s demanded. Residents need housing options – and in particular purpose built rental housing. And nothing I see in this draft bill addresses that fundamental need.

Its sole focus is not on better planning decisions, it seems to be on faster planning decisions and removing the supposed red tape that is “holding up” development.
But it doesn’t address the fundamental reason why developments are often stalled – because of appeals by some developers who don’t want to follow the rules. Rather than build what is allowed and get on with it, instead demanding amendment after amendment to municipal Official Plans, clogging up the case load of the planning tribunal with unnecessary appeals then claiming nothing can get built because cases take so long to be heard by an understaffed and overworked LPAT.

The roadblocks are built by developers who are in the business of building a profit, not municipal governments who are in the business of building a community.

While I can’t speak to the Toronto Context, I can speak to York Regions. And I can tell you that in York region, we dont’ have a supply issue we have a building issue. Right now our Region has a designated supply of 180000 units. Units that are within planning applications that are proposed as well as potential development and re-development of lands with a residential designation in local municipal plans but which currently have no application.
180,000 units of supply.

No red tape to be seen. Follow the rules and build tomorrow.

If the issue is truly one of a lack of supply, then why not build the thousands of units in the areas already zoned for housing, rather than fight to open up land that isn’t?

There is an affordability crisis in housing in Ontario but conflating supply with affordability won’t solve it. We need housing options – and in particular purpose built rental housing – to meet the needs of a diverse and growing population.

This complex issue cannot be solved by taking a big box store approach to legislation. A local issue can’t be solved at 50,000 feet. Community specific housing issues need solutions that are informed by the communities themselves.

On August 21, 2018 Minister Clark once again signed the MOU with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and entered into “…a legally binding agreement recognizing Ontario Municipalities as a mature, accountable order of government.” This MOU is “enshrined in law as part of the Municipal Act”. And recognizes that as “…public policy issues are complex and thus require coordinated responses…the Province endorses the principle of regular consultation between Ontario and municipalities in relation to matters of mutual interest”.
By signing this agreement, the Province made “…a commitment to cooperating with its municipal governments in considering new legislation or regulations that will have a municipal impact”.

Thus, we would like to extend an invitation to Minister Steve Clark to meet with myself and our working group to discuss how we can work together to better address the housing needs of our residents and the shared bottom line of appropriate growth. By working together we can build a positive future and ensure planning that’s for the people, not just for profit.

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