On November 28th, 2022, the Province of Ontario passed Bill 23, The More Homes Built Faster Act. The Province noted “This plan is part of a long-term strategy to increase housing supply and provide attainable housing options for hardworking Ontarians and their families.” While the Province’s desire to create additional housing units, including affordable units, is commendable, it should not be at the expense of parks, affordable housing, the environment, heritage and you, the taxpayer.
Ontario’s new legislation could result in serious implications to our community as well as other municipalities across the Province.
Loss of Revenue
Currently, the Town imposes development charges and parkland fees when developers develop. These are important because they help to pay for the new infrastructure and services needed to keep communities healthy, safe and livable such as parks, roads, trails, sewers, fire stations, and more. New residents require the same level of amenities as current residents and with less funding from developers, there will be less for everyone.
Developers are required to pay these fees when they build new homes or commercial buildings. The Town is required to go through a fair and rigorous process which is overseen by the Province to set the amount of fees and charges required. In addition, they can only be used to pay for the infrastructure, parkland and services needed for new growth. In other words, growth should pay for growth.
Bill 23 will impose exemptions for residential units, mandatory phase-in of development charges, and discounts for rental housing. As a result, the Town stands to lose millions in revenue that we use to pay for park development and infrastructure such as roads, trails, community centres, fire equipment and libraries and other infrastructure that makes our community livable. The County of Lanark, our upper level of government, will also lose revenue which will further impact Carleton Place’s residents.
Extra property tax increases or increases in water and sewer rates or other Town fees will be required to make up the lost revenue, or alternatively, capital projects, programs or services may need to be cut if the Province doesn’t help to make up for the revenue lost by this legislation. Raising taxes or increasing fees directly impacts residents. Cutting projects would mean residents have access to less.
Examples to show the impact of this legislation on our residents include:
The Town recently completed Water and Wastewater Master Plans and is finalizing its Environmental Assessment process which will allow for the expansion of our treatment plants in the next couple of years at an estimated cost of $64 million. The changes to development charges included in Bill 23 could result in developers not paying some of the cost of these plant expansions. As a result, any loss in funding from development charges which can no longer be collected may have to be paid for through water and sewer rates by existing people in Town who already contributed to the initial construction of the plants; thereby passing the burden to them to pay again for the capacity required for new growth.
Every 1% increase in taxes brings in additional revenue of $125,000 to the Town. A play structure like the one in Carleton Junction costs approximately $125,000 which is equivalent to a 1% tax increase. The Town currently collects development charges and parkland fees to pay for the development of its parks i.e. new play structures, splash pads, etc. With the passing of Bill 23, these amenities may have to be subsidized through taxes or ultimately, some amenities not being constructed at all due to lack of funding.
The savings from reduced development charges for growth-related infrastructure (such as roads, sewers, community centres and more) and parkland fees for new parks and public spaces over 10 years will go directly to developers with no guarantee that homes will be built or that they will be affordable.
Bill 23 doesn’t guarantee that new or more affordable homes will be built
The province wants to build 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years. No direct number of new homes have been assigned by the Province to the Town of Carleton Place. It should be noted that on average developers in Carleton Place have constructed more than 200 homes per year over the past few years.
There is no process outlined in Bill 23 that requires developers to build homes, even if municipalities have provided approvals and granted discounts on fees such as development charges, and the Bill doesn’t require developers to pass any of the savings onto new homeowners.
Ultimately, developers set the price of new homes based on the amount that the market is willing pay. While development charges and parkland fees do add to the cost of new homes, it is the market and not these fees that determine the price of new homes. Fees are not the reason homes are not built; it is the market that dictates this.
Bill 23 means less parkland and developers decide where parks go
Bill 23 caps the amount developers are required to pay for new parkland. In addition, developers, and not the Town, would be able to choose where to locate new parkland and they would receive a credit for building privately-owned public spaces that aren’t Town-owned parks.
Parkland is vital to our well-being and the vitality of our communities. They also should be connected to the Town’s existing parkland network and maintained according to the Town’s standards.
Bill 23 sacrifices environment and heritage
Bill 23 gives municipalities two (2) years to review heritage properties to determine if they should be designated or removed from the registrar. Only properties currently on the registrar can be reviewed and no new properties can be added.
In addition, the Bill limits conservation authority powers. Conservation Authorities ensure land-use decisions made today do not negatively impact the environment or impede future growth. They accomplish this by ensuring development has minimal impacts on flooding, erosion, slop stability and water quality by guiding development away from natural hazards and protecting the function of natural features. This can only be accomplished when evaluating growth and its cumulative impacts across a watershed. Water flows across municipal boundaries and so do the impacts of development.
weakens the ability of conservation authorities to continue protecting people and property from natural hazards such as floods;
diminishes the ability of conservation authorities to protect critical natural infrastructure like wetlands which reduce flooding, droughts, and improve water quality in lakes and rivers; and
places new downloaded responsibilities on municipalities related to natural hazards and natural resources that many municipalities are not currently resourced or have the expertise to undertake. This again will add costs to the municipality.
On November 30th, Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing confirmed the government’s commitment to cutting infrastructure and parkland fees for developers. The Province intends to start a third-party audit of municipal finances before making municipalities whole for any losses incurred.
The Town is fiscally responsible and complies with all provincial legislation around the collection and use of fees. We welcome the opportunity to review our finances with the Province and continue to seek commitment from the Province to compensate the Town of Carleton Place for any and all losses related to Bill 23.
As new information becomes available on the impacts of Bill 23, the Town will continue to provide updates to its residents.