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Newmarket, Ontario non-profit advocates protest new housing law

'We can't end the housing crisis if we are losing affordable homes faster than we can build them,' says Affordable Housing Coalition of York Region
2021-01-14 housing development Newmarket ASH-1
A townhouse development on Deland Way in Newmarket.

Newmarket and provincial non-profit housing advocates are calling on the province to overhaul its new housing bill.

The Affordable Housing Coalition of York Region joined dozens of other non-profits in opposing Bill 23, or the More Homes Built Faster Act, in a letter to the government. The provincial bill introduced last month would see many changes aimed at speeding up housing development amidst a shortage, with measures such as reduced fees and fewer requirements for projects with 10 or fewer units.

The letter compliments the bill for some measures, such as reducing taxes on non-profit and affordable development. But the letter criticizes moves such as giving ministerial authority to cancel rental housing protection programs when apartments are redeveloped.

It is “perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Bill 23,” Yvonne Kelly of York Region’s affordable housing coalition said in a news release. “Local rental housing protection laws that ensure redevelopment doesn’t wipe out affordable rental units have saved over 4,000 affordable homes. We can't end the housing crisis if we are losing affordable homes faster than we can build them.” 

The bill has garnered controversy, with York Region among those asking the province to halt it. But the Ontario government has said the bill addresses the housing crisis by fixing approval delays and fees that slow down building. 

The letter from non-profits said they welcome efforts to address that crisis and that the bill “does offer some areas of progress for affordable housing.”

“The bill definitely takes important steps that will expand supply and also create new units,” the letter states, referencing as-of-right permissions for secondary suites.

But the letter states many measures will hamper affordability, including reducing development charges that municipalities can use for affordable housing programs, a lack of requirements toward building affordable homes and no indication of further provincial government investment in affordable building.

“Housing legislation should centre the housing needs of the people who call Ontario home. Deregulating development will not address the housing needs of those most at risk of not having adequate housing,” the letter concludes. “We urge you to reassess the current legislation, amend the provisions identified here, and move quickly to focus on investing in affordable and deeply affordable housing.”

There is a deadline for written comments on the Bill of Nov. 17.