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Ontario must double housing production to improve affordability, task force says

A lack of housing supply has once again been called the most significant contributor to worsening housing affordability in Ontario and, by extension, Canada.

A new report by the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force said simply that not enough homes have been built, contributing to the erosion of affordability in Ontario.

The task force has come up with dozens of recommendations to improve the situation, identifying measures to reward municipalities that proactively build new housing and limit naysayers’ ability by proposing restrictions on the stalling powers of local governments and NIMBY (not in my back yard) residents.

The task force pointed out average incomes in Ontario have increased by 38 per cent since 2011, but housing prices have almost tripled. The widening gulf between housing prices and incomes is frustrating Ontarians.

Its report said demand-busting measures to cool housing markets have either not worked or provided only temporary relief. This should be an essential finding for supply skeptics, who exclusively blame foreign buyers, investors and others for Ontario’s rising prices and rents.

The task force presented several examples of how it takes years to get approval for new construction in Ontario. Such delays add millions of dollars to construction costs. In addition, local governments have adopted regulations and practices that exceed Ontario’s Planning Act provisions and are responsible for dragging out consultations, further delaying the supply of much-needed housing.

Even when professional planning staff recommend new developments, municipal councils sometimes reject the proposal or require additional compliance that can take months or years to do, causing delays or outright abandonment of the project.

The task force identifies the nexus between the NIMBY residents and NIMTO (not in my term of office) politicians, who have combined to successfully slow the pace of residential development. The NIMBYs, who often use the pretext of preserving a neighbourhood’s character, hold leverage over municipal councillors. Even when a development proposal makes sense, the councillors turn into NIMTOs.

Even without explicit municipal approval, the report recommends housing proposals be “as of right,” or approved automatically without rezoning, to disarm the NIMBYs and NIMTOs. For example, if city authorities delay a proposal to densify an area near a transit station, the planning approvals should automatically happen, given the apparent benefit of improving population densities near transit stations.

Furthermore, the report recommends placing limits on endless public consultations and proposes punitive damages against those whose delay tactics are motivated by sheer self-interest.

The report also recommends streamlining myriad planning regulations that differ by municipalities or even within municipalities in an effort to remove ad hoc decision-making and reduce uncertainty.

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