City receives high marks for timeline around new housing developments

Barrie has one of the shortest timelines for approvals at an average of 12 months per project, according to Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD)

NEWS RELEASE
CITY OF BARRIE
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A new study released by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) named the City of Barrie as the overall most efficient, helpful and cost-effective municipality across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for getting new housing developments approved.
 
The Municipal Benchmarking Study, compiled by Altus Group, looked at several factors that may contribute to affordable housing issues in major housing markets across the GTA. The study compared 18 municipalities, and revealed that the costs, timelines, and processes associated with approving housing can have a significant impact on overall housing affordability.
 
“Keeping approval costs and timelines down makes it easier to get affordable housing built and fights high rents and housing prices, a key priority of Council,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “It also helps power our economy as we navigate COVID-19.”
 
The study ranked municipalities on factors contributing to housing affordability, like:
 
Planning features – how easy it is to work with a municipality while moving through the approvals process, including level of transparency and availability of tools and resources

Approvals timelines – the time it takes for different types of housing development projects to get approved and ready for construction

Government charges – the amount of money a municipality will charge developers to build

The City is at the top of the list for the number of planning features – such as application tracking tools and development guides – that it provides as developers seek approval on a project. Barrie is also positioned as having one of the shortest timelines for approvals at an average of 12 months per project, all while offering an open and transparent decision-making process.

“It is rewarding to see our investment in streamlining processes and developing tools, along with our commitment to engaging with the community throughout the development process, be recognized,” said Michelle Banfield, Director of Development Services with the City of Barrie.

The Municipal Benchmarking Study also reveals that Barrie has had one of the highest jumps in new rental housing developments across the GTA, and highlights that while regions like Peel, Toronto and York are seeing young adults in the 25-44 age group move away to other parts of Ontario, the Simcoe region is seeing an increase of people from that age demographic moving to the area.
Read the full study at bildgta.ca. 

‘Most’ mapping in Innisfil’s new Official Plan now in effect, says official

Province had appealed land-use designation map in Innisfil’s Official Plan

Innisfil planners say a decision in the province’s appeal of the town’s Official Plan means most of the land-use mapping in the plan is now in effect. 

On Aug. 17, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) issued a decision on an appeal by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) of parts of the Town of Innisfil’s Official Plan. 

The town adopted its current Official Plan in 2018, which was approved by the County of Simcoe, with modifications. Several appeals of the plan followed, including one by the MMAH.

The MMAH was appealing Schedule B of the Official Plan, which shows land-use designations outside of settlement areas in town, Schedule BB, which maps the agriculture land base in town, and two sections of the plan’s general countryside policies. 

According to the town, the MMAH withdrew a large part of its appeal on May 1, 2020. 

The re-scoping of the appeal affected the status of several other Official Plan appeals, some party to the MMAH appeal and some separate. 

According to LPAT, the remaining appeals of the Official Plan will proceed with written hearings. 

The tribunal ordered that the appeal by the MMAH be allowed in part, modifying two sections of the Official Plan’s general countryside policies and approving land-use designation changes in the town’s Official Plan. 

“The province had appealed the land-use designation map in our Official Plan because of differences between our local and provincial land-use mapping,” said town spokesperson Johnny Keogh.  

He said the LPAT decision is the formal approval of changes to the town’s mapping and policy wording that have been agreed to between the province, the town and the county. 

“The result is that most mapping in the town’s new Official Plan is now in effect.”

For more information about the town’s Official Plan, visit innisfil.ca/planning-services/ourplace/status.

Shane MacDonald, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance 

Canadian home sales set record for August

Canada posted record home sales and prices in August, but the increase was uneven, as the housing market levelled off in some regions.

Home sales in August climbed 6.2 per cent compared with July to hit a record for the month, with gains led by the Greater Toronto Area and B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the Canadian Real Estate Association said on Tuesday.

Compared with a year ago, sales in August were up 33.5 per cent. CREA noted, however, unlike the countrywide home sales spike in June and July, sales in August were up in about 60 per cent of local markets.

“One change in August is that some regional disparity is starting to show again, after all markets were rebounding in unison in recent months,” wrote Robert Kavcic, BMO senior economist, in a note to clients.

“(Sales) were driven by gains in Toronto and surrounding markets, as well as Vancouver/Victoria, but others like Calgary and Regina have ebbed…We suspect this regional split will re-establish itself as the dust settles.”

The national average home price also set another record in August at more than $586,000, up 18.5 per cent compared with a year ago. Excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of Canada’s most active and expensive housing markets, lowers the national average price by about $122,000.

Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton saw some of the biggest surges in home prices last month, but prices were nearly flat in Calgary, Edmonton and St. John’s, CREA said.

Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper attributed the climbing prices with a housing shortage, calling the 18.5 per cent uptick “unhealthy.”

CREA said that it would only take 2.6 months to sell the houses currently on the market, as housing inventory fell to a record low, especially in Ontario.

“Both number of homes people are buying and the number of newly listed homes are rising significantly. This cannot hide the fact that August 2020 was the worst on record for available housing,” Soper said.

After fears about listing their houses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, more sellers are returning to the market. CREA said that in August, new supply outpaced the rise in sales for the first time since May.

Home sales in Canada came to a near halt in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have surged through the summer, helped by pent up demand and low mortgage rates. CREA said in addition to a record for August it was the sixth-highest monthly sales figure of any month.

The record-busting sales activity means the housing market has caught up to last year’s levels, despite weeks of inactivity this spring. Year-to-date, sales in August were up 0.8 per cent from the first eight months of 2019, CREA said.

But Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist, said comparing 2020 with 2019 sets a “low bar.”

“(The) first half of 2019 wasn’t really anything to write home about,” said Cathcart.

“(With) eight months now in the books and activity showing signs of moderating in September, 2020 is looking like it will go down as a fairly middling year overall – weaker than in a non-COVID world but quite a bit better than we would have given it back in April.”

Soper agreed that 2020’s sales numbers look strong, in part, because the 2019 market was “unusually slow” amid a set of new laws that pressured housing for about 18 months, ending last August. Now, 2020 is set to be another extraordinary year, as banks begin collecting deferred mortgage payments and jobless rates threaten to languish for the rest of the year.

“The residual impact of rising unemployment and the end of mortgage deferrals should have a dampening affect demand overall, and bring some balance to the market by the end of the year. The real question is what happens in the spring of 2021,” Soper said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

By Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press

Ford revs up Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park at groundbreaking

Premier Doug Ford and numerous politicians were in attendance to mark the official start to the project on Thursday morning

ORO-MEDONTE TWP. — Oakleigh Developments took a major symbolic step forward toward getting their Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park off the ground with Premier Doug Ford by their side, Thursday morning.

Geoff Campbell, managing partner of Oakleigh Developments, along with Ford and other local dignitaries congregated on the Line 7 North property in Oro-Medonte Township this morning to put the first shovels in the ground on the project, and discuss the progress that has been made on design since last year when a minister’s zoning order (MZO) was first granted on the land.

BarrieToday asked Premier Ford about criticism that MZOs may be used to circumvent the public consultation process.

“I totally disagree with that,” the premier said. “I think what it does is drive the economy and creates jobs. Consultation… we leave that up to the municipalities. We don’t give out MZOs unless a municipality is asking for it. I’ve been a councillor for years. It’s their job to consult with the people and then come forward to the ministry and ask for a MZO.”

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark was also on hand for today’s groundbreaking and spoke to BarrieToday about the MZO process.

When asked what he would say to people who worry the granting of an MZO could be considered an abuse of process, Clark said the public should be consulted before such requests even reach his desk.

“Every one we’ve accomplished for projects like this have been done with a council resolution, so obviously the resolution would need to be debated in open council,” said Clark. “This project was well known in this community and was acknowledged it was going to take years to be accomplished. The MZO was an opportunity for us to cut red tape and move it along.

“I’ve made it very clear as a minister that when it’s a job-creation project that will help a government priority, such as affordable housing, that we’re going to consider it,” the minister added.

However, Clark stressed that just because an MZO has been requested of the provincial government, does not mean it will automatically be granted.

“We have a number of requests from a number of municipalities and we’re reviewing them,” he said.

In an interview with BarrieToday, Campbell said the plans for the ambitous Oro-Medonte project have “evolved” through engineering since November.

“We have been going through functional servicing, detailed design and filing our site plans,” he said. 

Campbell says he’s still not in a position to officially announce the partners that have signed on for space in the project, but did say there are about seven on board so far. He said full announcements on partners is planned for the fall. He also said expansion of the nearby Lake Simcoe Regional Airport runway has brought in interest from possible international partnerships.

“That is putting more eyes on Simcoe County and Oro-Medonte Township, and is giving us more international attention,” said Campbell.

One partner he could confirm was Georgian College.

“The partnership with Georgian College is focused around curriculum,” he said. “It’s about getting students in here for co-op opportunities, and we’re looking to grow into other opportunities. We’re looking at integrating… the automotive business school, but also electrical engineering students working on EV (electric) cars, the innovation group looking at autonomous design… there’s a number of different things we’re looking at and educational opportunities.”

An FI Grade 3 racing circuit is also being planned for the site, but Campbell clarifies it is specifically for testing and is not intended to be a spectator-based facility.

“It is designed at a racing level of safety,” said Campbell. “We can run high-performance cars and test autonomous cars at high speed. It is a racing automotive circuit but its primary use is for testing and development.

“Some of the tenants that are looking at coming in here are race teams to have their home base garages here to they can work on the cars and test them on circuit before they go off to their races in the U.S.,” he added.

With more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space, the project will be a multi-use facility that joins an automotive business park with a motorsport road course and testing facilities. The complex will be home to engineering, education, design, supply and manufacturing businesses all centred around the art and joy of the automobile.

Campbell says with construction starting now, buildings are planned to start opening on the site in 2021 and the circuit planned to be open in 2022.

The park was granted a minister’s zoning order in November 2019 by the provincial government. The order granted a request to change the zoning on the land from industrial employment land, but for aviation-related employment only, to industrial employment land. To read our full story on the zoning order, click here.

LOCAL AREA MUNICIPALITIES UPDATES

New Tecumseth Process Review – Planning, Engineering, Building and Bylaw Enforcement: The Town of New Tecumseth has recently commenced a review of processes to recommend best practices and develop requirements for applications, permits and licenses for Building, Planning, Engineering and By-law Enforcement service areas. ESRI Canada has been retained to undertake Phase 1 of the project, under the Ontario Modernization Grant, for the business review portion of this project. This work would include:

1. Documented current and enhanced, best practice future processes for each of the above areas including: o tracking of documents; business rules around deadlines; efficiencies for searching and storing information; handling of inquiries; efficiencies in dealing with customers; and efficiencies in communications.

2. A business requirements document to support the development of technology in the following areas: Building Permits enhancing the turnaround time for occupancy of residents into their homes; Development applications including a public portal expediting the process through enhanced instructions and reduced meetings; By-law files and cases improving turnaround time towards completion; and Engineering applications for Capital and Development projects including the reconciliation of development charges. This Phase is scheduled to occur within the next 4-6 months. Following completion of this work, a technology implementation solution is proposed that will facilitate the efficient processing of applications, permits and licenses across the areas of Building, Planning, Engineering and Bylaw, tied into the Geographic Information System (GIS) platform. This second phase is expected to follow later this year or early 2021. Town staff have advised that they are seeking members’ input on any issue relating to the above, as well as any suggested improvements or best practices is welcome.

Members are strongly encouraged to share any feedback directly with processreview@newtecumseth.ca by Friday, September 4th. For additional information, please visit the project website at the following link: www.newtecumseth.ca/processreview. Questions can be directed to: Bruce Hoppe, MCIP, RPP Interim General Manager, Infrastructure and Development Town of New Tecumseth P – 705-435-3900 x 1237 | bhoppe@newtecumseth.ca