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Newmarket council slams provincial housing bill

Town passes resolution formally opposing Bill 23
Newmarket Councillor Christina Bisanz put forward a resolution for the town to oppose the province's new housing legislation.

Newmarket council is demanding changes to and formally opposing the province’s new housing legislation.

Council passed a resolution to oppose Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act. Councillors expressed their issues with the bill Dec. 12, which seeks to speed up development timelines and reduce costs, but cuts into municipal development charges.

Councillor Christina Bisanz, who put the resolution forward, said there are “very grave concerns” with the bill.

“Certainly, perhaps allowing more homes, but not necessarily more homes that are going to be affordable, nor more homes that are going to be appropriate for the needs of local communities,” she said. “I regret the need for me to have to bring this motion forward.”
The bill passed last month has earned wide condemnation from municipalities concerned by the impact of losing some development charges and the possibility of raising property taxes to fund the infrastructure for new development. But the province has said the move is necessary to increase the housing supply, there is funding available to municipalities and municipalities have plenty in reserve.

In preliminary budgeting, town staff estimated the tax impact of the bill could range between five and 13 per cent. 
Councillor Victor Woodhouse raised concerns including that percentage in budgets going forward, to track the tax impact.

He said taxpayers "need to know that’s the result, that’s the reason it’s happening." 

Mayor John Taylor said it is an idea he also raised to the small urban mayor’s caucus, but it is difficult to navigate. He added it would be discussed with other municipalities, but they have to weigh giving the province the impression that they are successfully replacing the funds lost from development charges.

Another issue raised by the council resolution is the lack of sewage allocation available for the town to meet its provincially-started housing target of 12,000 new homes by 2031. Councillors said that the target is an impossibility until the region develops more sewage capacity. 

The problems with the bill are also getting raised at the regional level, Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh said.

“We do understand that the municipalities, we are creatures of the province,” he said. “But they do have to consult with us.” 

Meanwhile, the province is also planning to modify other legislation to open up Greenbelt lands for development, including near Newmarket’s western border in King.

Taylor said that given the province is demanding construction start on those opened Greenbelt areas by 2025, that could further strain Newmarket’s available allocation for new homes.

Taylor said that could mean “they’re taking the scarce (sewage) allocation we have and putting it towards greenfield development, for new urban sprawl on the edge of Newmarket instead of towards density along the corridors  ... Everybody knows that’s bad planning.” 

Although he said council should oppose the bill, he added they also need to work with the province to find improvements within the system changes it is putting forward.

“We can try to work with the province to improve what’s in front of us while saying we’re not satisfied, we think it should be halted.”

Concerning Bill 23, Bisanz said she thinks it is going to end up contrary to what the province intends to do. 

“Every time you peel another layer of the onion, we’re just finding more issues.”