Oakville Council, the Mayor, and the local MLA's are going to need an intevention if some of these proposed land use and planning changes take place.
A night ago Oakville Council sent a letter to Halton Region, being critical of the Halton planning department's prefered draft growth plan. 
The next day, Mayor Burton was on the call for the Housing crisis summit looking unhappy, or perhaps perplexed. From TVO today.


If the provincial government follows through on some of the recommendations from its housing-affordability task force, it could become dramatically easier to build new homes across the province and in its biggest cities — if the Tories are willing to make big, dramatic changes in the run-up to a provincial election.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark struck a housing-affordability task force in December; chaired by Scotiabank executive Jake Lawrence, it’s charged with making recommendations to the government about how to increase the number of new homes built in the province and to address the affordability of market-rate housing.

TVO.org has obtained the task force’s draft report, which is currently being circulated around multiple ministries for their input. (Asked to confirm its validity, Clark’s director of communications, Zo Knowles, told me, “I cannot confirm the authenticity of a report you may have because we have not yet received the Task Force’s final report,” adding “the Task Force is expected to share their report with the Minister on January 31, 2022.”)

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While the draft and its contents might look different two weeks from now, the recommendations seen by TVO.org would, if implemented, mean some of the most radical changes to Ontario planning law since the 1970s and would undo some of the legacy of that era’s politics, which saw greater emphasis placed on local consultation and a stronger role for communities opposing everything from new highways to apartment-tower blocks.

Those local planning politics — and the provincial rules that empower those opposed to new homes — are in the task force’s crosshairs. The report recommends that municipalities with populations over 100,000 (that is, those home to the vast majority of the province’s people and jobs) would be required to allow up to four units and four storeys on any single residential lot, matching a recent call by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Underused or vacant commercial spaces could also be converted to residential or mixed residential-commercial uses without requiring prior municipal approval. 

The province could also set minimum zoning standards provincewide that would prevent cities from using everything from lot size to shade impacts to control development. And projects of 10 units or fewer could be exempted from site-plan approval (an additional process many cities currently use) if they otherwise conformed with a city’s zoning and official-plan policies. The report also recommends prohibiting municipalities from mandating public consultations for such projects if they need only what are called “minor variances," meaning they're mostly in compliance with a city’s rules but need small adjustments to be approved.

Those measures alone would dramatically lessen the procedural obstacles facing new housing construction in Ontario municipalities, but the report goes further: it argues that the province should also restrict the use of heritage-preservation laws (in the language of the report, “prevent abuse of the heritage preservation and designation process”) by dramatically reducing the scope of municipal heritage powers and requiring cities to compensate property owners for the loss of development or sales income from their land. The report also calls on the province to ensure that municipalities hit legislated timelines for approvals and that the Ontario Land Tribunal (successor to the Ontario Municipal Board) be empowered to penalize municipalities that seek to thwart timely approvals.

While the measures in the draft report would amount to dramatic changes to current law (which itself has been substantially changed since the Tories won power in 2018), they might find at least some support outside the Progressive Conservative party: the call for a lighter regulatory touch on small infill development — the so-called missing middle, which involves everything from duplexes and townhouses to small apartments — has support across the political spectrum (see the Green Party of Ontario’s recent housing platform, for example).

The question is whether the government will have the stomach for these kinds of major changes in the lead-up to the election. The Tories have already attracted enormous criticism on the housing file over Clark’s enthusiastic use of ministerial zoning orders, as well as other matters. In theory, the task force’s recommendations would inform a housing bill Clark could bring to the legislature this spring (MPPs don’t return to Queen’s Park until February 22), and the law would either stand on its own or be folded into a larger bill, such as the budget bill Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will be presenting in March or early April.

In practice, the government hasn’t always endorsed the most aggressive housing policies possible: it backed off some of the most controversial proposed changes to the charges that cities levy on new homes, and the Tories might decide that discretion before an election is the wiser course. 

Speaking after the provincial housing summit with municipal leaders this week, Clark acknowledged that the government has what he called a “very finite window” to introduce new substantial legislation before the legislature is dissolved in time for the scheduled June election.

“There’s a lot of things in motion here,” Clark said Wednesday. “I’m going to do my utmost to get the policies put forward … to deal with this crisis.”