Province looks to increase housing options

home builders

The provincial government is undertaking a province-wide consultation process to address the housing supply in Ontario

The provincial government has begun an extensive consultation process called the Housing Supply Action Plan to explore the best ways to increase housing options for Ontario homebuyers. The consultation focuses on five areas: the length of time it takes to get development projects approved; the number of restrictions as to what type of housing can be built; development costs; renting; and innovative ways to increase housing supply.

Currently it takes years for a homebuilder to get the shovels in the ground on a housing project. Over the last 15 years a number of regulations and more red tape have been added to the process making it incredibly challenging to get a project off of the ground. The cost to home builders for navigating their way through the sea of red tape, public consultations and often times court battles with special interests groups, who are opposed to a project, can be in the millions. Add to that the various taxes (about 25 per cent of a cost of a new home is tax) and homes in Ontario quickly become unaffordable.

Mark Basciano, president of Mountainview Homes in Niagara, said he’s pleased to see the consultation process taking place. “Personally, I like their approach. I like that the government is talking to the people who are actually in the industry like home builders, developers and also the consumers.”

Basciano was frank with his assessment of the previous Liberal government when it came to how they handled the homebuilding industry in Ontario. “The other government was arrogant. Their decisions had unintended consequences.”

On a more local front, Basciano has his own views on what would help reduce red tape in Niagara. “As a taxpayer, not a home builder, I feel we need less government. You want to talk about red tape? Look at Niagara. Nothing even comes close to comparing to this region.”

Jon Whyte, who is the Regions’ Development and Industry Consultant, said, “There is a lack of supply in Ontario and it’s having an impact on Niagara.” Whyte points out that because people from the greater Toronto area are moving to Niagara in search of housing affordability, that increased demand for housing locally is creating supply constraints of our own, further escalating pricing and displacing local residents who can no longer afford to buy a home in Niagara.

Whyte said that the Region is compiling data on local housing supply and demand challenges which will illustrate in greater detail the local implications of where housing will be required, what form and densities will be required, the affordability pressures based on housing type, municipality, income levels, and other factors. “Basically, this housing data analysis will help illustrate the extent of the problem locally, and set projections for the future,” explained Whyte.  A report on this data is expected to be completed by the summer.

The industry has said all along that the more restrictions put on home builders and the longer it takes to get approvals, results in a lower supply of homes and increased costs to the consumer.

Chuck McShane, Executive Officer of the Niagara Home Builders’ Association said it’s good to see the government undertaking this consultation process. “The most important thing is they are talking to the people who are building homes, who are on the front lines of this business and getting real, honest feedback about what’s working and what it isn’t.”

“It will be very tough to get affordable housing without housing affordability,” added McShane.

Mike Collins-Williams, Director of Policy for the Ontario Home Builders’ Association said that province-wide many communities are dealing with what Niagara is. “The bottom line is that the demand for housing in many communities is exceeding what home builders can deliver under the current framework. The reason for that is the provincial and municipal policies,” explained Collins-Williams.

He said while there is no silver bullet to fix the problem, Ontario home builders are optimistic that the Ford government is truly looking at transformative change that will be beneficial to builders and buyers.

The Region will be writing and submitting its response to the Housing Supply Action Plan with input from the 12 municipalities.

To read the consultation document visit the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.

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