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Bill 23 to cost York Region housing services $109 million

'The public should be outraged,' Newmarket mayor says as region projects millions lost to legislation over 10 years
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York Region Administrative Centre in Newmarket. Supplied photo/Region of York

Newmarket’s mayor slammed Bill 23  for cutting development charge funding to housing services, as York Region continues pushing against the legislation. 

Regional council approved a series of comments and recommendations Dec. 15 in response to the major provincial housing bill. The legislation seeks to speed up housing development but has earned scorn for cutting into municipal development charges.

Mayor John Taylor highlighted the bill making housing services ineligible for development charges, estimated to cost regional housing services $109 million over 10 years. He said that is not getting enough attention and it adds a new hurdle to regional efforts to develop social housing.

“It’s, for, me shocking,” he said, adding that it is “very significant lost revenue.” 

The legislation also exempts affordable housing from development charges, which it defines as 80 per cent of the average purchase price of a home. This has gotten criticism, and municipalities are projecting they will have to increase property tax rates by several percentage points to make up for lost revenue.

As for housing services, treasurer Laura Mirabella said alternative resources will need to be found to fund the building of new housing units. The province is suggesting the federal housing accelerator fund could help make up for lost revenue, Mirabella added, but there is a lack of details to this point. 

Meanwhile, the province has argued that reducing development charges will reduce the cost of housing and that municipalities have enough development charge reserves to handle the revenue loss. It is also proposing an audit of select municipalities to examine their funding concerns.

“We are all underfunded in terms of our asset reserves,” Taylor said. “The idea we’re rolling in money defies every study and every report.” 

The region is sending several recommendations to the province regarding the legislation. These include calculating affordability based on municipal household income rather than the purchase price and increasing long-term capital funding to make up for lost revenues, among other proposed changes.

Region staff said that while efforts to streamline approvals in Bill 23 can be positive, there will “likely be unintended consequences.” 

As for the development charge cuts for housing services, Taylor said that “the public should be outraged.”

“This is something that people care about more deeply than ever, those who are most vulnerable are housed, and I think this is significantly undercutting our ability to do that.”