Farmers say proposed Greenbelt expansion ‘another level of legislation we don’t need’ 1

Farming vs. development: A balance is needed in Peterborough County. 2

Is the Liberals’ affordable-housing plan a ‘monstrous failure’?. 3

As Ontario PCs scramble to choose a leader, Liberals gather to talk policy, election strategy. 5

Globe editorial: Can the Ontario PCs break their election curse?. 7


Farmers say proposed Greenbelt expansion ‘another level of legislation we don’t need’

Barrie Today (Wendy King)/February 1 Open house on growing Greenbelt attracts crowd in Barrie

Some local farmers are raising questions about an expansion of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt.

About 250 people turned out to Barrie’s Southshore Community Centre Wednesday evening to find out more about the Ministry of Municipal Affairs plans to potentially expand the Greater Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt.  The study area is on the outer edge of the current Greenbelt.

Springwater Councillor and farmer Perry Ritchie had a few concerns regarding the proposed Greenbelt expansion.

“It is just another level of legislation we don’t need. Farmers have concerns about what limitations there will be if their property is included (in the Greenbelt). Sometimes they have to get permission to put up a shed or a silo on their own property.”

Ontario is taking steps to protect water resources by launching public consultation on moraines, coldwater streams and wetlands under pressure from urban development.

The province forecasts the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s population will grow 50 percent or by 4 million people in the next 25 years placing tremendous pressure on water resources.

Springwater Township Mayor Bill French says farmers have concerns about “new red tape” but have no issues about “protecting water sources or flood prevention but they also don’t want agricultural land taken out of service.”

French continued “If you need a poster child for sprawl, just come to Simcoe County.”

Several attendees were disappointed there was no formal presentation suggesting they were getting no new information from the open house set-up.

Mayor French says Simcoe County Council has asked the province to extend the deadline past March 7 to allow for more comments.  They first saw the recommendations in December.

Anna McDonald of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs says they are anxious for feedback and are hosting 5 more information open houses through the end of February.

The study areas include:

The Oro Moraine in northeast Simcoe County.

The Nottawasaga River corridor in Dufferin and Simcoe Counties

Catchment areas and wetlands west of Minesing in Dufferin and Simcoe Counties

Important surface water and recharge features in southeast Simcoe County

Several small moraines including the Gibralter and Singhampton Moraines, Waterloo and Paris/Galt moraine complex, Orangeville Moraine

Farming vs. development: A balance is needed in Peterborough County

Peterborough Examiner/February 3 – Interested in a job in the agri-food sector? You’re in luck, as MPP Jeff Leal and the Ontario government are eager to tell you.

Leal, who is both Peterborough’s MPP and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, was talking up a new baby formula manufacturing plant at a future-of-farming seminar in Millbrook on Thursday.

Chinese investors are pouring $225 million into the Kingston plant, which will open in 2019 and create 200 manufacturing jobs.

The direct impact on farming is harder to calculate. The plant will use goat milk products from Ontario producers so presumably some new farm jobs will also be created.

Any new formula factory and farm jobs will add to the tally Leal has been promoting relentlessly for the past few years: Agri-food is this province’s largest employment sector with 800,000 jobs.

That total is made up primarily of food manufacturing and processing businesses, everything from frozen pizza makers to breweries and coffee bean roasters.

Interested in a job on a farm? You might not be so lucky.

In contrast to the burgeoning agri-food numbers, Statistics Canada reports that from 2013 to 2017 the number of Canadians working on farms dropped to 330,00, an 11 per cent decline that was the largest among all 16 job sectors StatsCan tracks.

The total area of land being farmed was down by less than one per cent but the number of farm workers fell by nearly seven per cent.

Farm supporters in Ontario hope growing consumer interest in fresh food grown on small local farms will help reverse that trend.

Farms at Work, the group that organized the seminar Leal attended, lobbies to stop

the rezoning of active farmland in Eastern Ontario for other uses, including housing developments and commercial/industrial development.

But there is a flip side to that argument, something Peterborough County Warden Joe Taylor acknowledged during a speech earlier in the week.

Taylor told the Peterborough Rotary Club freezing commercial and residential development of farmland is generally good long-term policy, but could hurt communities like his home township, Otonabee-South Monaghan.


Is the Liberals’ affordable-housing plan a ‘monstrous failure’?

TVO (John Michael McGrath)/February 2 – ANALYSIS: Social-housing advocates are up in arms about Ontario’s inclusionary-zoning rules. John Michael McGrath explains why they’re angry, and what the government intended

​A somewhat arcane housing regulation is not usually the kind of thing that raises people’s passions to the point that city councillors accuse the province of betrayal and housing advocates accuse the government of undoing its own legislation, but that’s where the Liberal government is currently.

The Liberals passed legislation in 2016 that would allow municipalities to use inclusionary zoning to address the dire affordable-housing shortage many cities face. Effectively, the province gave municipalities the power to require that developers provide units of affordable housing in their condo projects.

But the law is subject to more detailed regulations, which the government finally released for public comment in December (the period for public input closed February 1). And it’s those regulations that have housing advocates so upset.

There are numerous objections to the government’s proposal, but the biggest by far focuses on the requirement that cities subsidize the new affordable units the inclusionary zoning rules would create. The province isn’t allowing cities to simply demand that new units be built and paid for by developers (and thus new homebuyers). Municipalities would be required to offer financial incentives to offset some of the costs of new affordable units. City of Toronto staff estimate the cost to the taxpayer would be somewhere between $110,000 to $158,000 per unit.

“If this were a natural disaster, the government would rush in with money and tools to rebuild,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas of ACORN. “If the stock market crashed, the government will rush to bail out the companies who went bankrupt. Why not with housing?”

Vargas, Toronto city councillor Mike Layton, and Sean Meagher of Social Planning Toronto released an open letter to the government asking it basically to abandon its current inclusionary-zoning proposal.

Some critics have gone further: last month, Layton’s colleague Gord Perks called the province’s proposal “a monstrous failure in public policy.”

The province, for its part, says that municipalities have a number of ways to avoid having to put hard cash on the table: they could reduce development charges or other fees they currently levy when developers build new homes, or reduce the minimum number of parking spaces required (a single underground parking space can cost between $50,000 and $80,000 in Toronto).

More ambitiously, municipalities could avoid the whole issue of charges and subsidies by adopting the community-planning permit system, an alternative to the traditional combination of official plans and zoning bylaws used to regulate building.

In conventional Ontario towns, a developer buys a piece of land and applies for an amendment to existing zoning bylaws and, potentially, a change to the official plan. The city then considers the request (or doesn’t) and either grants it or not. Any decision, or lack of a decision after 210 days, can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. OMB appeals can be lengthy and costly.

Under the CPPS, that process is flipped: if it works well, the municipality gets to do all of its planning in advance across a larger area, instead of reacting on a site-by-site basis. The city can direct growth in ways that the current zoning-based system doesn’t, or doesn’t do well. The system’s advocates — including the current government — say the CPPS can give both councils and builders more predictability and streamlined approvals than the current system. A CPPS can be appealed to the OMB once, before it’s put in place, but once it’s in effect, only small matters are supposed to go to the OMB, not whole developments.

The Liberals originally introduced the concept as the Development Permit System in 2006, but it’s had limited appeal among Ontario cities to date. The township of Lake of Bays was the first to implement it, and Brampton adopted a DPS for its historic downtown.

But when Toronto added language to its official plan to allow it, it was appealed to the OMB by both developers and residents’ associations. The concerns are predictable: developers worry that DPS policies will restrict the amount or profitability of their building; homeowners worry they’ll lose meaningful input into the shaping of their neighbourhoods. The language approved by council in 2014 is still there, waiting for a decision by the OMB, as of February 2018.

CPPS isn’t a panacea, but it is a solution the government hopes municipalities will take seriously: broad, conscientious expansions of allowable building instead of a never-ending series of one-off deals. Housing minister Peter Milczyn said as much in a Toronto Star op-ed this week:

“My experience as a city councillor for 17 years was that too often in our cities, development is treated like a game of ‘let’s make a deal’ between developers and councillors,” Milczyn wrote. “Cities, instead, should be pre-zoning rather than making a series of one-off deals. Pre-zoning is better for all communities.”


As Ontario PCs scramble to choose a leader, Liberals gather to talk policy, election strategy

CBC (Philip Lee-Shanok)/February 3 – As members from across the province gather in Toronto for the Ontario Liberals’ annual general meeting this weekend, organizers say the turmoil in the Progressive Conservative party won’t affect their discussions on policy and election strategy.  

But observers outside the party say what’s happening with the PCs can’t help but have an impact on the meeting.

Brian Johns, president of the party, says interest in this year’s conference is high — approximately 1,500 delegates from associations in 124 ridings across the province are expected at the Westin Harbour Castle Convention Centre.

“This is the most people we’ve had to an [annual general meeting] in recent memory,” said Johns.

He says the meeting’s been months in the planning so the interest isn’t a byproduct of what’s going on with the PCs, as they scramble to replace their leader in the wake of Patrick Brown’s ouster due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I recognize that it very well may be that, but it’s not,” Johns told CBC Toronto, pointing out that grassroots party associations have been bringing forward policy suggestions for months.

Who the Tories elect won’t change the party’s direction, he claims.

“Not at all. We don’t work like that. We’ve been operating with a very steady hand and we’ve had a plan for a very long time,” Johns said.

“We knock on doors; we speak to people and hear their voice. And regardless of what the other party does it’s not going to stop us.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne says she looks forward to addressing the party’s rank and file on Saturday night, and claims the tumult in the PC party will not dominate the conversation at the meeting.

 “We all know there’s lots of political discussion about what’s going on in the other party, but that’s not core to what we will be talking about this weekend,” Wynne said.

But Cristine deClercy, an associate professor of political science at the Western University, says there will be no way delegates will be able to ignore the elephant in the room.

“What’s going to happen with the Progressive Conservative leadership race and how then should the Liberal party’s campaign team try to respond to or anticipate certain outcomes?” she said in an interview with CBC Toronto.

The sudden ouster of the PC leader, and the decision by the party executive to call a snap leadership race, present a lot of uncertainty for the Liberals, says deClercy.

“They’re not sure whom they will be fighting. They’re not sure if the Tory platform, which has been widely disseminated and carefully crafted, will be the platform the party runs on or not in June,” she said.

“They also don’t know how this situation will play out for the New Democrats and this necessarily and inevitably will affect how they calculate and how they plan strategy around the election.”

Aleem Kanji, vice-president of government relations for Toronto lobbying firm Sutherland Corporation, says it will be difficult for the party to finalize policy this weekend, not knowing where their opposition stands.

“The challenge will be not knowing who their opponent will be,” says Kanji. “Where will they position themselves? Certainly the landscape could change.”

Kanji points out the Liberals will be tabling their budget in March around the same time that the Ontario PCs announce their new leader.

“That will be their blueprint for the election. How that narrative plays out will make this a very interesting time in Ontario politics.”


Globe editorial: Can the Ontario PCs break their election curse?

Globe and Mail/February 2 – Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, another Ontario squad that wears blue and white, will be familiar with the ulcerous feeling that afflicts supporters of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party before elections.

That is to say, the nagging dread that no matter how well things seem to be going in the regular season, the team will find a way to blow it in the playoffs.

Can you blame them? For going on a decade now, the PC Party, thanks to its leaders’ late-season gaffes, has made an art form of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In 2007, there was John Tory’s flaky pledge to fund all religious schools. In 2011, Tim Hudak mysteriously wilted in the home stretch.

Three years later, Mr. Hudak scored an own goal by vowing to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, and the Liberals won their fourth straight election.

It’s a record of electoral failure that would give any party the yips. But even the most Eeyorish PC partisan, conditioned by a decade of disaster, must still be stunned by the meltdown that has befallen the party in the last 10 days.

Consider the following sequence of events:

Patrick Brown, his party ahead in the polls, resigns as PC leader in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, including a claim that he asked a high-school student to give him oral sex while he was a federal Conservative MP.

His resignation only comes after a defiant press conference, a mass exodus by his top staff, and a sequence of late-night conference calls in which his caucus warns him that, if he does not jump, he will be pushed.

Then it really starts getting ugly.

First, the PC caucus lets it be known that it would like interim leader Vic Fedeli to lead the party into the June election, to which Mr. Fedeli says “hear hear.”

Then the party executive, led by president and Patrick Brown pal Rick Dykstra, decides on an open leadership race instead. This leads to much mutinous chatter.

Before a revolt can erupt, Mr. Dykstra steps down in the wake of a report that he allegedly sexually assaulted a staffer while serving as a Conservative MP.

Within days, Mr. Fedeli says he won’t run for leader after all – in order to “root out the rot” in the party, including credible reports of fraudulent memberships.

“We have learned our party is in much worse shape than we knew,” he says.

But that’s not even the worst of it. Doug Ford, an opportunistic populist who craves attention and is infamous for playing fast and loose with the truth, announces he will seek the leadership. Doug Ford, the less charming older brother of the bigoted, deceitful Rob Ford. That Doug Ford.

It’s true that the end of this week brought the PC Party some respite. It settled on rules for its leadership contest, which will be decided by March 10, leaving enough time for the winner to gird for battle against Premier Kathleen Wynne in an election expected in June.

And two credible candidates are in the race: Christine Elliott, a respected former MPP and runner-up in two previous PC leadership contests; and Caroline Mulroney, an experienced lawyer and investment banker and daughter of former prime minister Brian.

In one poll taken since all the upheaval began, the PCs still have a 15-point lead over the Liberals.

But there are daunting problems ahead. Questions about the party’s membership list have to be answered. And there is an ongoing police investigation into alleged ballot stuffing at a PC nomination meeting in Hamilton.

Plus, the leadership race will be divisive, thanks to Mr. Ford. He will style himself as the people’s choice, a right-wing everyman fighting against party elites and the wealthy scion of a political dynasty – even though he himself is exactly that. There is no reason to believe Mr. Ford will conduct himself with dignity and civility in the month ahead, or put his party’s interests first.

Which means it’s likely that one candidate will win an ugly contest that will divide the base, and then be subjected to attack lines that the Liberals can A/B test for effectiveness in the election campaign.

But maybe we are too jaded. Maybe the PCs will get their act together, run a flawless campaign fronted by a strong leader, and cruise to victory.

And maybe this year, the Leafs will finally win the Cup.


Patrick Brown steps down as Ontario PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations. 1

Ontario supports developers over providing affordable housing. 4

Ontario plans elevator availability law; report makes 19 recommendations. 5

Ontario Taking Action to Improve Elevator Availability. 7


Patrick Brown steps down as Ontario PC leader amid sexual misconduct allegations

Globe and Mail (Justin Giovannetti)/January 24 Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has resigned under pressure from his caucus just hours after allegations emerged that he had inappropriate sexual relations with teenage girls.

His shocking fall in a few short hours leaves the party without a leader four months before an election that the PC party was favoured to win according to recent polls. Mr. Brown was forced out by senior party members after initially saying he would remain as leader while defending himself against allegations of misbehaviour during his time as a federal MP.

The Globe has learned from multiple party sources that caucus members held two conference calls just before midnight Wednesday and demanded that Mr. Brown resign. He agreed to the request on the call. At 1:30 am he released a statement.

“These allegations are false and have been difficult to hear. However, defeating Kathleen Wynne in 2018 is more important than one individual,” the statement read.

“For this reason, after consulting with caucus, friends and family I have decided to step down as Leader of the Ontario PC Party. I will remain on as a MPP while I definitively clear my name from these false allegations.”

The scandal is the latest in a global Me Too reckoning that has toppled high profile men accused of sexual misconduct in several industries, from film to politics. Mr. Brown, 39, was the second Canadian leader to fall Wednesday. Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie was asked to resign his post Wednesday morning after an investigator hired by the provincial PC Party to probe “allegations of inappropriate behaviour” found he had breached workplace harassment rules.

The timing of Mr. Brown’s departure gives the PC party little opportunity to recover before Ontario goes to the polls in June. The opposition party had been leading Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in popular support. Politically active since his youth, Mr. Brown, who is single, was seen as the party’s best hope of ending the Liberals 14 years in power.

It took less than four hours to radically reshape the province’s political landscape. Reporters were summoned to Queen’s Park for a news conference at 9:45 p.m., just minutes before CTV News aired a report alleging sexual misconduct involving two young women. A visibly upset Mr. Brown vowed he was innocent and would stay on to fight, saying he was made aware only hours earlier by CTV News that the network was ready to report the allegations.

“A couple of hours ago, I learned of troubling allegations about my conduct and character. And I’m here tonight to address them. First, I want to say these allegations are false. Categorically untrue. Every one of them,” he said.

Brown abruptly left the podium and ignored a throng of journalists who followed him to a waiting vehicle outside. When asked if he would comment further, he replied “I’ll be at work tomorrow.”

But as he drove away, his inner circle was already disintegrating. Members of his campaign team and office staff announced they were stepping down because Mr. Brown had rejected their advice that he resign for the sake of the party. As the scandal began gain international attention, senior party members organized emergency phone calls to tell Mr. Brown they would not support him.

Premier Kathleen Wynne did not initially offer comment Wednesday night on the allegations or Mr. Brown’s response. However on Twitter, she wrote: “It’s a difficult and brave thing to do to come forward in the way these young women have done tonight. My government and I have been clear on the issue of sexual harassment and assault. In fact our policy and our ad were called “It’s Never Okay.”

Andrea Horwath, leader of the third-party NDP, was quick to call for Mr. Brown to step down.

Mr. Brown colleagues also began to post public statements when they knew his resignation was imminent.

Caroline Mulroney, one of the party’s star candidates who is running in York-Simcoe, posted that “we are living in a powerful moment where women and girls across Ontario, across Canada and around the world are ending their silence…”

She added “when we hear allegations, we must listen. We must make sure these injustices are never tolerated, and that we respect and honour the brave women we are hearing.”

Early Thursday morning, the PC caucus unanimously agreed that Mr. Brown had to go as leader.

“Mr. Brown is entitled to a legal defence and due process, but he cannot lead us into an election as a result of these allegations. The Ontario PC Caucus unequivocally upholds the principle that a safe and respectful society is what we expect and deserve,” announced the group of 29 MPPs in a statement.

The party’s caucus, which has served under Mr. Brown since 2015, can now elect an interim leader who can serve up to two years; however, it was unclear on Thursday what decision the party would make going into this year’s election. “Our caucus will immediately consult with party officials and members on the best way to move forward to defeat the Wynne Liberals in the 2018 election,” the statement continued.

The political shakeup was caused by an exclusive report by CTV News about Mr. Brown’s interactions with two young girls several years ago. The news agency reported that one girl, a high-school student in Barrie at the time of the incident, alleges that she met Mr. Brown at a local bar with a mutual friend. The future PC Leader invited her to his home and provided them with alcohol, though they were underage. During a tour of his home, he stopped in his bedroom with her and then exposed himself and asked her to perform oral sex on him, CTV News reported. She did briefly and then left.

The other woman, a former employee of Mr. Brown, alleges that she was sexually assaulted in 2013 after a charity event in Barrie. After a night of heavy drinking, she told CTV News that Mr. Brown pushed her down on his bed and forcibly kissed her.

The woman said she met Mr. Brown on a flight in 2012. Mr. Brown later tracked her down via her Facebook profile and sent her his phone number and allegedly told her to contact him if she needed to get past lineups into bars – she was also not of legal drinking age at the time.

In March 2013, the woman said Mr. Brown hired her to work in his constituency office. She alleged to CTV that after a hockey charity event that she helped organize, she attended a party with Mr. Brown and his friends. She was intoxicated and went to Mr. Brown’s home with some of his friends after the bar closed.

During the evening, she said she was invited to Mr. Brown’s bedroom with a friend to look at pictures. When the friend left the room, Mr. Brown and the woman were sitting on his bed. She said that without invitation, he forced her back and kissed her. She says she was unresponsive to his kisses. He then climbed on her and continued to kiss her. She told him to stop and said she had a boyfriend. He then drove her to her parent’s home.

“I felt it was sexual. I could feel his erection on my legs when he was on top of me so I felt that it would have gone to sexual intercourse if I had not done anything,” the woman told the news agency. “I would characterize that as a sexual assault.”

CTV did not identify the women. The Globe and Mail was unable to reach the women or verify their allegations.

After Mr. Brown’s press conference on Wednesday, his campaign manager, chief of staff and deputy campaign manager announced they were resigning.

“Earlier today, all three of us became aware of allegations about Patrick Brown. After speaking with him, our advice was that he should resign as PC Party Leader. He did not accept that advice. Since our view is that this advice was in the best interest of the PC Party, we have therefore resigned our positions,” they announced.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement that sexual misconduct and harassment have no place in Canadian society or politics.

But he stopped short of calling for Mr. Brown to step down amid the allegations.

“I understand how difficult it can be for women to come forward under these circumstances,” Mr. Scheer said.

“The allegations against the Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are extremely serious and should be investigated fully.”

Ontario supports developers over providing affordable housing

Toronto Star (Op-ed: Mike Layton)/January 25 – Cities in our province are growing … fast. Despite the boom in housing being built, the cost of housing is increasing dramatically. Cities across Ontario are facing a housing crisis. The clear winners in the housing boom in Ontario are the developers and the banks that invest in them.

One important tool that cities around the world frequently use to increase the number of affordable homes being built is to require developers to build a percentage of affordable housing in all new developments over a certain size. This is called “inclusionary zoning.”

Inclusionary zoning has been used in cities across the United States to respond to shortages in affordable housing. New York City’s mandatory policy is implemented in select neighbourhoods, with 20 per cent to 30 per cent of housing required to be permanently affordable by controlling the sale or rental price to below market rates.

After years of municipalities and housing activists requesting action by the province, the Ontario government has proposed new inclusionary zoning rules. Sadly, the proposed rules are not adequate to address the different needs in our communities, and favour developers’ bottom lines over the health of city budgets and the needs of the people who are struggling to find affordable places to live.

First, the rules apply only to new condominium buildings and not new rental buildings. Worse yet, developers get to choose if the new affordable units will be rental or ownership. While some communities might need to encourage rental buildings, others might need more affordable purchase units. It should be up to the municipalities to identify the need and direct growth to these needs, not the developers bottom line.

Second, the proposed rules will require cash-strapped cities to subsidize developers’ affordable units by 40 per cent of the value. You read that correctly. Cities will need to pay developers who are making millions off our shared municipal infrastructure. While incentives are routinely used as part of a development application, like additional density or lower development related taxes, the proposed law would limit what tools cities can use and require cities to pay developers.

The money cities would need to pay developers could come from fees collected for their development, but those fees would be taken from funds to build necessary new services, such as transit, libraries, and parks. As cities grow, new services and infrastructure are necessary to accommodate the growth. If cities are forced to pay developers, either cities go without necessary infrastructure, or they are forced to pay for it with other sources of revenue, such as property taxes.

Developers will claim that the costs will be passed on to homeowners, but that is simply not the case. The housing market determines what housing costs, not municipal charges. Answer this simple question — would a developer charge less to sell a home if they knew they could get more? (hint: the answer is no, they are in the business of making profit).

Finally, the province has capped the total number of affordable units in a development to a meagre 5 per cent, or 10 per cent in high transit areas. This is far below other jurisdictions in North America. This cap unnecessarily restricts the possibilities of an inclusionary zoning initiative when the availability of affordable housing is decreasing in Ontario.

Furthermore, unlike in New York where the units are affordable forever, the province has set an affordability period of 30 years, which means this is a Band-Aid solution to a crisis that is not likely to get any better a generation from now.

Mandating affordable housing through inclusionary zoning is a step in the right direction for communities across the province concerned about housing affordability. Cities are already playing a game of catch-up to residents’ needs. Limiting municipal control to target types of units, capping affordable units, and making municipalities pay developers limits will doom this policy to failure.

Every city has a unique context, and different needs. What works in London may not be best suited for Hamilton. Cities should be able to wield inclusionary zoning in ways that suit our respective residents, and to incentivize affordable development in affordable ways. Instead, the proposed guidelines serve as an unnecessary hindrance to implementing inclusionary zoning.

Ontario plans elevator availability law; report makes 19 recommendations

CTV News (Canadian Press)/January 25 ­– Ontario plans to pass legislation in the spring aimed at addressing elevator availability and reliability as part of its commitment to tackle what has become a growing vertical mobility issue across the country, The Canadian Press has learned.

The planned legislation is in response to a report to be released Thursday that aims to define and enhance elevator reliability by ensuring building owners perform preventive maintenance – seen as key to minimizing thousands of annual entrapments and other unscheduled shutdowns.

“There are currently no minimum preventive maintenance standards in Ontario to minimize future availability issues,” retired justice Douglas Cunningham writes in his 57-page report obtained by The Canadian Press. “Compliance with minimum maintenance standards for safety, shown to signal more effective preventive maintenance practices, is at an all-time low.”

In fact, Cunningham reports, only one in five residential buildings are meeting minimum rules for scheduled maintenance tasks.

Other recommendations include forcing contractors to report outages over 48 hours or when half the elevators in a building are out of service – 80 per cent of buildings have only one or two lifts – and having a defined plan to restore service. Outage information should be publicly available, Cunningham says.

Cunningham says that while the four big elevator companies have painted a somewhat rosy picture of the situation – some critics have referred to multinational giants Kone, Otis, Schindler, and ThyssenKrupp as an oligarchy – there is widespread concern about elevator availability, which he wants to see defined as “the ability of a building’s elevating devices to transport persons as and when required.”

Overall, Cunningham finds a “diverse and complex set” of interrelated issues underlie outages, including maintenance, capacity problems and labour shortages. He also notes in passing cases in Europe, Israel and Japan involving systemic anti-competitive practices by the big elevator companies.

The Ontario government last year ordered the provincial safety regulator – the Technical Standards and Safety Authority – to commission the study after The Canadian Press found increasing problems with residential, nursing home and other elevators across the country and a private member’s bill aimed at addressing the issue gained all-party support.

The latest available figures, for example, show firefighters in Ontario responded to 4,577 calls by people trapped in lifts in 2016. Industry figures peg entrapments that year at 9,649. Additionally, the report notes, elevator outages are enormously problematic for people with mobility issues, and can hamper first responders in emergencies.

Part of Cunningham’s study – carried out by consulting firm Deloitte – involved a survey of building owners. Condominiums reported the biggest availability problem. Overall, one in five respondents reported having an elevator out of service for 18 days or more in any given year. Elevator age appears to play little role.

The study also reviewed jurisdictions such as Vancouver, New York and Singapore.

Liberal backbencher Han Dong introduced his private member’s bill last year that would punish contractors for extended elevator downtime and mandate “traffic studies” to ensure new residential buildings have sufficient elevator capacity. No standards exist at the moment.

Cunningham, however, asserts Dong’s bill is based on anecdotal rather than “robust” evidence. The problem, he finds, is the “acute absence” of reliable data that undercuts efforts to comes to grips on the extent of the problem and potential fixes.


Ontario Taking Action to Improve Elevator Availability

Ontario Newsroom (Ministry of Government and Consumer Services)/January 25 – Ontario is elevating its efforts to reduce outages and improving access to elevators, while maintaining the province’s strong safety record.

Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, was joined by MPP Han Dong in Toronto today to announce that the government has developed an action plan that would make Ontario the first jurisdiction in the world to establish standards for elevator repair timelines.

In addition to establishing a standard for elevator repair timelines, Ontario will also:

  • Enable collection of necessary data to inform the development of the standard.
  • Enhance enforcement of maintenance requirements, including through new administrative monetary penalties.
  • Amend Ontario’s Fire Code to notify fire departments when designated firefighter elevators are out of service to improve planning and response during emergencies.
  • Publish information about elevator performance to help people in the province make better informed decisions before they rent or buy a home in a multi-storey building.
  • Help elevator owners negotiate better maintenance contracts ‎through an education and outreach campaign.
  • Create new standards for new-build high-rise buildings to ensure they have enough elevators to serve residents‎.

The government commissioned an independent study to examine the issue of elevator availability and propose solutions, which was conducted by the Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham. The action plan addresses all of the 19 recommendations proposed in the final report.

Protecting homebuyers and renters and strengthening public safety is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

Quick Facts

  • There are about 20,000 elevators in approximately 10,000 residential and institutional buildings in Ontario, including long-term care and retirement homes. Approximately 655,000 elevator trips are taken each day on these elevators.
  • In Ontario, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority regulates elevators, including through licensing and inspections, to ensure all devices conform to the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 and applicable regulations, codes and standards.
  • The independent study on elevator availability included a series of over 50 interviews and workshops with stakeholders, and a survey with responses from 250 licensed elevator owners and operators in Ontario.
  • In the Ontario Fire Code, existing buildings greater than six storeys with residential occupancies are required to have at least one elevator provided (identified on the street floor) for use by firefighters.



Key part of Ontario’s housing plan slammed as ‘giving in’ to developers. 1

Ontario budget could come early because of spring election – Sousa. 2

Rising interest rates could negatively impact Ontario’s economy:Report. 3


Key part of Ontario’s housing plan slammed as ‘giving in’ to developers

CBC (Mike Crawley)/January 23 Proposed rules require only 5 to 10% of new homes, condos to be priced below market rates

Proposed new rules that are supposed to help rein in the high price of housing in Ontario’s expensive cities are being criticized as too weak to have much impact. 

The provincial government is giving municipalities the power to force developers to price some units in new housing projects below market rates. But with the proposed details of the plan now up for public review, critics are calling it deeply flawed. 

Their chief concern is that the plan would demand a maximum of 10 per cent of units in each development be sold as affordable housing, and in lower-density areas the mandate would be just five per cent. 

“They absolutely gave in to developers,” said Virginia Vaithilingam, an activist in Mississauga with the social justice group ACORN Canada. 

“A good plan would build thousands of units. This one is not going to do that,” said Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations.

The province’s proposed regulations would allow cities to mandate a planning tool called “inclusionary zoning,” a system used in many major U.S. cities to create a mix of below-market-price homes or condominiums in new developments. 

“Inclusionary zoning just allows the city to tell a developer, ‘Look, if you want to build this, you’re also going to have to include affordable units,'” said Dent in an interview Tuesday with CBC Toronto. “It makes developers take a little bit of their millions in profit and make less in order to build affordable units.” 

Several city councils in Ontario, including Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton, have been calling on the government to give them this power. The Wynne Liberals promised last year to follow through.

Cities to foot 40% of cost

The proposed rules would require cities to reimburse developers 40 per cent of the difference between the sale price of the affordable homes and the market rate. 

“Municipalities are cash-strapped; they can’t afford that,” said New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns in an interview Tuesday. He called the government’s plan “totally inadequate. It might look good on paper but it won’t do anything for the housing crisis.”

Developers wanted to see the cost burden of building the below-market units split 50-50 with the cities.  

“Affordable housing doesn’t come out of thin air; someone needs to pay for it,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, which represents housing and condo developers in the province.

The industry argues that mandating too many below-market units in new developments would force up the price of homes on sale at the market rate.  

“The number of affordable housing units that some groups are advocating for can only be created through a government-funded building program,” said Vaccaro in an email to CBC Toronto.  

On Tuesday, about 30 tenants and activists gathered outside Housing Minister Peter Milczyn`s office to protest against the proposed rules. Some carried placards saying “Liberals In Bed With Developers” and “Affordable Housing Now.” 

“We are focused on increasing the supply of housing that is affordable in Ontario,” said Milczyn’s spokesman Matt Ostergard in a statement.  “We are encouraged by the energetic response to our ongoing consultation around inclusionary zoning regulations and look forward to hearing feedback from stakeholders across the province.”

The proposals are open for public comment until Feb. 1.

The average price of all homes (condos, townhomes and houses) sold in the Greater Toronto Area in the final month of 2017 was was $735,021. That is down 20 per cent from the peak of more than $918,000 in April, when the Liberals announced their Fair Housing Plan, and is almost the same as the average home price one year earlier.

However, the average condominium price in the GTA in December, $503,968, is up 14 per cent from the price a year ago.

Ontario budget could come early because of spring election – Sousa

Mortgage Broker News (Ephraim Vecina)/January 24 – Ontario’s finance minister has launched a series of public consultations to develop this year’s provincial budget, which he suggested will be delivered earlier than usual because of the upcoming election.

Charles Sousa did not provide an exact date for the budget, but says the provincial election — scheduled for June 7 — has created a condensed timeline for the government to deliver the spending plan in order for legislative watchdogs and Ontario residents to properly examine it.

As reported by The Canadian Press, the annual consultations will take place across the province. The government said that last year, approximately 71,000 took part in the sessions.

Sousa noted that the upcoming provincial spring budget will include a package of measures dealing with housing affordability.

Residents’ ideas for the budget can also be sent in by mail, email, or fax by February 9.

Sousa confirmed last fall that Ontario’s 2018 budget will be balanced — as will budgets over the next two years.

Last year, the provincial government delivered its budget on April 27.–sousa-236673.aspx

Rising interest rates could negatively impact Ontario’s economy:Report

National Newswatch (Shawn Jeffords)/January 23 – Rising interest rates could have a “significant” impact on Ontario’s economy as the already ballooning household debt is projected to continue to grow, warns the province’s fiscal watchdog.

The Financial Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday that an average Ontario household owed nearly $154,000 in 2016, up from $119,000 in 2010. Its analysis shows that paying down that debt cost an average Ontario family about $12,500 in 2016. As interest rates rise, those repayment costs will grow by nearly 25 per cent to $15,500 a year by 2021, it said.

“That really is money that will have to come out of discretionary incomes,” said the office’s chief economist David West. “It’s money that will otherwise be spent on goods and services that now will have to be diverted towards debt payments.”

West said that the change in consumer spending would slow the economy and could impact government revenues as a result.

“Consumer spending is one of the main drivers of the Ontario economy,” he said. “Going forward in our forecasts we anticipate consumer spending will slow to 1.8 per cent growth by 2021. It will steadily ramp down.”

The report attributes the growth in household debt primarily to residential mortgages.

West said the FAO has been raising the issue of household debt and financial vulnerability in its reports for some time.

“A sharper than expected rise in interest rates would increase these payments even further and force households to scale back,” he said. “This could have significant negative implications for the economy and … that will, of course, have an impact on the government’s fiscal position.”

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Charles Sousa, said the FAO report demonstrates that not everyone in the province is benefiting from the province’s growth and added that it makes policy changes like the increase in minimum wage necessary. Ontario raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 from $11.60 and plans to increase it to $15 in 2019.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli said the report shows that life is becoming increasingly unaffordable in the province.

“The Liberals under (Premier) Kathleen Wynne have made life more unaffordable by driving up the cost of everything, including higher taxes and fees and skyrocketing hydro costs,” Fedeli said in a statement. “Families are borrowing more than ever to make ends meet.”





What would landing Amazon H2Q mean for Toronto’s already red-hot housing market?. 1

Brantford: City building permits top $200M in 2017. 2

OMB blocks Tecumseh from expanding Oldcastle industrial park. 3

Kenora: Annual housing report focuses on state of housing stock, age trends. 4

Brockville: Curbs on rural growth decried. 5

Is Ontario’s housing market about to take a breather? These economists say yes. 6


What would landing Amazon H2Q mean for Toronto’s already red-hot housing market?

Metro News (May Warren)/January 21 Toronto has great universities, good quality of life and an educated, diverse workforce — all qualities that make the 6ix stand out in the race to land Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

But one thing the city definitely does not have is enough affordable housing to absorb the waves of tech workers the headquarters would surely bring. And the possibility of getting the site, now that the Toronto region has officially made the shortlist, has experts and advocates already thinking about what the impact would be on an already saturated market.

“Where are they going to find housing? There’s no housing,” asked Toronto ACORN member Alejandra Ruiz-Varga, who is concerned getting Amazon would drive up rents.

Javier Vivas, director of economic research for real-estate listings website, said any big headquarters move has “the power to really transform the entire housing market.”

While that could be good for a smaller market like Indianapolis, it would make the GTA even less affordable in neighbourhoods near proposed Amazon sites.

“Toronto is just one of those places that is a little bit more sensitive to anything that moves the needle when it comes to housing affordability,” Vivas told Metro over the phone from California.

Vivas thinks Amazon’s final decision will come down to what’s best for the company, but Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, thinks Toronto’s housing crisis will cost the city the headquarters.

Toronto Global, a joint bid that includes the GTA, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, is the only Canadian region on the short-list and the headquarters would bring a $5 million investment and 50,000 jobs to the region.

But Amazon employees would face an extremely low vacancy rate of one per cent in the Toronto region, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Meanwhile condo rents rose nine per cent in the last part of 2017, according to market research firm Urbanation, to an average of $2,166.

Not to mention still simmering housing prices.

“They’re not all millionaires, some of them are software developers who make a good wage, but if a good wage only buys you a shoe-box condo, is that really what you want for your employees?” Dent wonders.


Brantford: City building permits top $200M in 2017

Brantford Expositor (Susan Gamble)/January 19 – Brantford issued more than $200 million in building permits in 2017, making it the second biggest construction year for the city behind 2005.

“It was a solid end to a solid year,” said Russ Thomson, the city’s chief building inspector.

Last month, a 6.3-million permit was issued for Mississauga Metals to start rebuilding its Middleton Street plant that was largely destroyed by fire last February. The fire took six days to fully extinguish and ruined much of the building.

The other high point in December saw 21 permits issued to Empire Communities to build single-detached homes, mostly on Sinden Road and Longboat Run in the southwest.

“There really isn’t a time of the year they don’t build anymore,” said Thomson. “It’s a 12-month-of-the-year industry.”

Last year also saw a construction boom in Brant County, which issued 739 permits valued at $82.4 million.

In 2016, the county issued 552 permits valued $72.2 million.

“We did really well with an additional $10 million in construction and about 200 extra permits compared to last year,” said Andrew Gravelle, Brant’s chief building official.

Last month, the county issued 47 permits valued at $8.9 million. That was up from December 2016 when 20 permits valued at $2.8 million were issued.

Gravelle noted that the “other” category – which includes smaller permits for additions, major plumbing work and such – showed a $1.7 million increase in 2017 compared to the year before.

“That’s a fair increase and represents a lot of garages, sheds and little barns being built.”

The county saw 141 housing units created during 2017, up from 118 units the year before.

Gravelle said he predicts a housing boom in the county in 2018.

“I’m expecting close to 400 homes to be built this year, mostly in Paris and St. George. And the county is building three new firehalls and a new OPP station so it’s going to be a fairly busy year,” he said.

“There will be a building boom this year in the county and we’ll continue to grow.”

In Brantford last year, despite some large permits for industrial and commercial projects, residential still represented the biggest chunk of construction.

In 2017, 755 permits were issued for single homes, duplexes, multi-family homes and alterations to homes. They were worth $107.4 million. In total, the city last year issued 977 permits worth $202.7 million.


OMB blocks Tecumseh from expanding Oldcastle industrial park

Windsor Star (Craig Pearson)/January 20 – Oldcastle is its own community — and its residents have an Ontario Municipal Board decision to prove it.

An OMB ruling last week prevents the Town of Tecumseh from expanding the Del Duca Industrial Park, currently home to some 400 tool-and-die and other companies, onto 50 acres of adjacent farmland at the northeast corner of Concession 8 and North Talbot Road.

“It’s just fantastic,” Oldcastle resident Judy Wellwood-Robson said Saturday of the decision. “The OMB said Oldcastle is a community. We’re thrilled.”

Wellwood-Robson, whose family has owned land in Oldcastle since 1830 and who helped found the group Friends Of Oldcastle Development, better known as FOOD, wants to see more residential homes sprout up in the area.

“The town had an industrial-only plan,” Wellwood-Robson said. “What we have been fighting is the town was basically saying Oldcastle is not a community, therefore provincial policies of strong, balanced, sustainable communities did not apply to Oldcastle.

“The OMB said, ‘No, Oldcastle is a community. The residents have proven that.’”

Oldcastle, home to several hundred people, sticks up like a camel’s hump into Windsor to the north. For 40 years, industry has steadily grown in the area, so much so that area residents worried the two remaining clusters of homes — one on North Talbot Road and one on Oldcastle Road — would simply vanish in the future if industrial creep continued.

“Our greatest fear was that our community would disappear,” she said. “Our whole plan is to build a strong, sustainable, balanced Oldcastle, much like any town.”

In the ruling, Sarah Jacobs wrote that after considering submissions in the November hearing, the OMB board determined that the proposed Oldcastle industrial development was “not consistent” with provincial policy mandating that “development sustain healthy, liveable, and resilient communities.”

Jacobs wrote that the board could envision a mixed residential-commercial plan fitting provincial policy.


Kenora: Annual housing report focuses on state of housing stock, age trends

Kenora Daily (Kathleen Charlebois)/January 19 – Age demographics are starting to shift in Kenora, which has an impact on housing needs in the city.

That’s part of what was detailed in the annual report on housing, which was presented to city council as information at the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Special projects and research officer Adam Smith said this report serves as an update to the housing report he wrote last year and gives a “high-level backgrounder” on how the local housing market looks. “I also try to add a new perspective, looking at core housing needs through suitability, affordability and adequacy,” he said.

Smith added that instead of focusing on vacancy rates, he looked at what kinds of repairs are needed in the housing stock and where the issues are in the market. The report also gave an overview of municipal tools that can help the market or enable it in a way that can help some market -based development occur.

The committee report that accompanied the housing report pointed out that most of the newer developments in the city are geared towards higher-income earners. Smith pointed out that what’s affordable for one person may not be for another, and it’s a matter of ensuring housing for all income classes.

“The reality is that you build stock on one side of the spectrum and it frees up another area,” he said.

The housing report also highlighted how seniors are the fastest growing demographic in Kenora with 19 per cent of the population in the 65 and older age group, a number expected to keep increasing. Smith said a lot of seniors want to downsize and move into multi-residential settings. “In turn, that opens up single-detached dwellings, which can support some other demographics,” he said.

Of course, those multi-residential settings, like seniors’ housing and assisted living units need to be there for people to move into.

“We know we need a lot more housing,” said Mayor of Kenora Dave Canfield. “We know we need seniors’ housing and we know we need assisted living [units],” he said, adding that the city has dealt with assisted living companies and it’s now a matter of convincing them to build in Kenora.

“We have a lot of seniors that need assisted living that would love to move back to Kenora, but are living in Winnipeg or elsewhere because there’s no facility here,” he said. “I don’t think we’re too far away from finding someone ready to build an assisted living complex.”

Brockville: Curbs on rural growth decried

Recorder (Wayne Lowrie)/January 19 – A provincial edict that municipalities should direct development into villages and away from rural areas put a burr under the saddle of some residents of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

At a meeting to discuss the township’s official plan this week, several residents were upset at suggestions that the municipality might restrict severances on rural property to force people to move into “settlement areas.”

“What business do we have of telling people where they must live?” one woman asked planners who were explaining options for a new Official Plan.

Other residents said that people move into the TLTI precisely because they want the rural lifestyle. If they were forced to go to the settlement areas – Lansdowne, Lyndhurst, Seeley’s Bay, Rockport or Ivy Lea – they wouldn’t move here, one man said.

“Most people who come here want to live in a rural area,” he said. 

Elaine Mallory, the township’s director of planning and development, said the provincial government wants to steer development to the settlement areas where it is easier to provide services. She said the policy applies to all Ontario municipalities. It is also included in the official plan of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, which must approve the township’s plan, she said.

Mallory said most of the housing growth in the township has been rural. In 2017, there were 18 new residential builds in the TLTI and the majority were rural properties. In addition, there were 15 new building lots created, all of them rural.

“If we are supposed to be directing development toward the settlement areas, we’re not doing a very good job at it,” Mallory said.

Planning consultant Nadia De Sandi said drafting a new official plan is a “balancing act” between the planning dictates of senior governments and the views of the public. That’s why the township is holding a series of public meetings to consult residents on what they want to see in a new official plan.

Among those questions are several directed at the urban/rural issue.

“Development trends over the past 10 years show the majority of new development in the township occurring in the rural area. How should the township encourage new development to be focused in the settlement areas in keeping with the policies of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement and the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville official plan?” the planners ask.


Is Ontario’s housing market about to take a breather? These economists say yes

BuzzBuzzNews (Sarah Niedoba)/January 19 -Ontario’s real estate market closed out 2017 with strong sales numbers. But according to two economists, that performance isn’t likely to continue into the new year.

“Existing home sales rose 3 per cent month-over-month in December,” writes TD senior economist Michael Dolega and economist Rishi Sondhi in a recent note. “[But] going forward, the improvement in Ontario’s market could take a breather, with the initiation of [new mortgage rules] likely to weigh on activity in the GTA.”

Ontario’s sales gain in December was largely due to a 8 per cent bump in the GTA market. The new mortgage stress test that came into effect on January 1 seems likely to dampen sales for the foreseeable future.

Just two weeks into the new year, online real estate website Zoocasa has reported that the GTA has seen a 21 per cent year-over-year drop in condo sales, and a 20 per cent drop in detached home sales.

“We did anticipate that the GTA market would be off to a slower start in 2018,” Zoocasa managing editor Penelope Graham told BuzzBuzzNews. “With the new mortgage rules, you have people who are hesitant to buy or to list, until things settle down.”

Dolega and Sondhi write that next month will prove the first true test of the Ontario market under the new rules.

“Next month’s [sales numbers] report will be all the more closely scrutinized for the health of the market, amidst the newly implemented [mortgage rules],” they write.

But while the GTA will likely see lower sales numbers for the first quarter of 2018, not every Ontario market is set to cool. According to Scotiabank VP and deputy chief economist Brett House, buyers priced out of Toronto may make their way to other cheaper pastures.

“There’s likely going to be spillover in [other Ontario markets] as affordability becomes increasingly strained in markets like Toronto,” House told BuzzBuzzNews. “Hamilton and Oshawa among others.”

Housing Market-Residential construction big driver in economic growth, latest report shows

The Canadian residential construction industry continues to be a major driver of the national economy according to the latest annual report from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.The association’s 2015 Economic Impacts of Residential Construction study found that new construction, renovation and repair accounted for more than 1 million jobs last year, making the industry one of the country’s largest employers. In the same year, the so-called “investment value” of new home construction, renovation and repair – a value that accounts for all expenditures except land — exceeded $128 billion, based on Statistics Canada Building Permits data.The report highlights that housing is still doing well, while the rest of the economy isn’t, says CHBA CEO Kevin Lee. It also shows “the sheer size of the industry, and that it operates in every community from coast to coast.” That industry largely comprises small and medium-sized enterprises that create jobs “and really drive the economy,” he says.

Continuing the trend of the past decade, renovations outstripped new home construction both nationally and here in Ottawa last year. Countrywide, renovation and repair accounted for 54.4 per cent or $70 billion in investment value compared to 45.6 per cent or $58.7 billion for new construction. In Ottawa, renovation and repair weighed in at 52.6 per cent or $2 billion while new construction amounted to 47.4 per cent or $1.7 billion.Lee says booming renos and repairs are a result of Canada’s ever-larger housing stock, which inevitably ages and requires upkeep and “beautifying.” He expects renos and repairs to lead the industry charge “indefinitely” as our housing stock continues to grow.

The economic reach of the housing industry extends beyond just figures like the $58 billion-plus in wages nationally reported for last year. Other benefits range from tax revenues and spending at local businesses to large donations from builders to hospitals and other local institutions, which Lee says is “probably an under-recognized thing, the amount the industry gives back to the community.”

Still, the CHBA’s latest report isn’t necessarily a good news story locally according to John Herbert, executive director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association.For example, new home construction starts are down about 25 per cent over the past four years, Herbert says, and he doesn’t expect that to change much next year. The slow down, he says, has a “significant impact on jobs and tax (revenues).”

In Ottawa, housing jobs last year amounted to more than 20,000, slightly more than half of them in renovation and repair. That ratio is close to that of the province as a whole, where there were 174,873 jobs in renovations and repairs last year compared to 156,758 in new construction.While Lee says the latest CHBA numbers show housing as a welcome  source of stability in a national economy that’s “sputtering” in some sectors, he points out that a vibrant market overall can also mean a continuing uptick in housing prices. That’s making it increasingly difficult for young buyers to get into the market, a fact that has long-term ramifications in an industry that counts on new and move-up buyers to help keep it thriving.

The Spectator’s View: Tackling Hamilton’s economic development

“Huge shoes to fill” is how Hamilton general manager of planning and development Jason Thorne referred to the pending retirement of Neil Everson, the city’s director of economic development. For a host of reasons, some obvious, some not, that bears repeating.

When he bids farewell, the veteran of 16 years will leave a department and a city on a roll. Hamilton is not on the cusp of renaissance, it’s in the thick of it, and Everson and his team deserve credit for being catalysts, although they’re hardly the only ones. Locally, regionally and even internationally, the department is held in high regard. It has helped recruit major economic players such as Canada Bread, Navistar and Maple Leaf Foods. It has worked hard to help existing local businesses expand and remain viable. Everson and his staff get some of the credit for the Conference Board of Canada ranking Hamilton’s economy as among the most diverse in the country.

But, and there’s always a but, what’s next? While Everson and his team have done a laudable job of getting the city’s economic development on track and sustainable, the challenge going forward is that and much more. Home runs like the ones noted earlier are very valuable because they represent sizable growth in the city’s commercial industrial tax base. But that sort of single injection is few and far between. Everson likes to say he appreciates those home runs, but also sees the value of “singles and doubles” — the economic boosts provided by small and medium sized businesses.

The problem is it takes a lot more small and medium-sized boosts to match the dollar value of one home run. So, how does Hamilton not only sustain but also grow its non-residential tax base? Consider some blunt economic realities.

While economic indicators are positive, Hamilton’s overall tax base is still skewed with the result that the lion’s share of the tax burden falls on residential taxpayers. There is strong growth in that sector, but ultimately we need some rebalancing so the pie is more balanced between residential and industrial/commercial. That used to be the case, but with the loss of successive large rate payers (U.S. Steel being the latest) that imbalance has become the norm. Hamilton is not unique in this regard — the same is true of most post-industrial Ontario cities, but the situation here is acute.Another challenge? Much investment in non-residential development is by public institutions. The investment and new jobs are welcome, but public institutions — hospitals, universities, colleges and the like — don’t pay taxes, they pay the city through a “heads and beds” fee that isn’t nearly as robust as taxes would be. Bottom line: Hamilton continues to face a huge revenue challenge and economic development must be a big part of the answer. Big shoes, big job.

Greenbelt Freeze urban boundaries for two years, says Greenbelt groupFriends of the Greenbelt Foundation says population projections should be updated before sprawl expands.

An environmental charity dedicated to protecting the Greenbelt around Toronto is recommending the province freeze the development boundaries of regional municipalities for two years.That’s how long it will take to update population growth projections using this year’s census and develop new guidelines around the way communities assess the amount of land they need to accommodate that growth.The proposal from Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation will likely to draw fire from builders who say the provincial growth plan is already constraining land use, limiting the supply of new housing and driving up the price of homes in the Toronto region.But the Greenbelt advocates say the current method of assessing land needs is “fatally flawed.” It supports a government-appointed panel headed by former Toronto mayor David Crombie that recommends denser development. The environmental group is issuing its report Wednesday suggesting how those recommendations can be strengthened when the province updates its Smart Growth plan.

Pausing the expansion of municipal borders is a reasonable proposition given that the province is already projecting lower population growth than it was four years ago, said Kevin Eby, a former Waterloo Region director of planning, who wrote the report for Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.”We’re not saying that there shall never be expansions again or municipalities have to create hard boundaries,” he said.But, said Eby, “There’s enough of a question now about the population forecasts that we shouldn’t be bringing any more land in until the 2016 census is released.”Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation want Queen’s Park to clarify the deadline for achieving higher densities.The method of assessing how much land is needed for development also must be standardized, says the group.

Many planners have looked at past housing trends to predict future needs. If patterns show there will be a desire for low density detached houses, the municipality then expands its boundaries to provide space for those homes, even though it may already have the capacity for higher density townhomes or apartments.”They’re just projecting the same building forward so you’re getting a double whammy of poor planning. On one hand you’re over-projecting how much land you need and then you’re projecting on historical evidence that we clearly know is changing. What we build now is completely different than what we built 10 years ago,” said Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation CEO Burkhard Mausberg.Protecting the Greenbelt means preserving a million acres of prime agricultural land that produces everything from strawberries and wine grapes to cattle, he said.”If the growth plan doesn’t work, what we will find 20, 30 years from now is that inefficient sprawl will have come to the boundary of the Greenbelt and put pressure on the Greenbelt to have that land reduced in size,” he said.

Although Ontario’s Smart Growth plan is 10 years old, it hasn’t influenced development around Toronto yet. Those plans were already in place when the legislation took effect, said Eby.”The next 10 years is where you’re going to see the impact of the growth plan,” he said.

The province has extended the period to comment on its Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review review until Oct. 31.

Transit Expansion and Development‘Transit renaissance’ on tap for GTA if funds found, report finds

The Toronto region is in the midst of what politicians are billing as a ‘transit renaissance.’By Ben Spurr

The Toronto region is in the midst of what politicians are billing as a “transit renaissance,” which will see a major build of badly needed public transportation across the GTHA for the first time in decades.But according to a new report, unless governments find more funding to pay for those planned lines, the money will run out before the renaissance is even halfway completed.The report is to be released Tuesday by Move the GTHA, a group of organizations that advocates for transit improvements. Its goal was to quantify the investment still required to complete the ambitious network expansion the province announced eight years ago. The authors found that less than half the planned network has been allocated funding.

Entitled Are We There Yet?, the report was shared with the Star ahead of its release. It calculates that, taking into account the province’s 25-year Big Move plan announced in 2008 as well as the regional express initiative (RER) announced more recently, the total length of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area’s rapid transit network would be 1395 kilometres by 2033.Of that, the report calculated that 61 kilometres was in place in 2008 and isn’t slated for upgrades and 52 kilometres have been built since that time. (The figure for existing lines doesn’t include the GO network because much of is it slated for substantial service improvements.)

A further 519 kilometres of new or improved transit is funded but not yet completed, and more than half of the total network, or 763 kilometres, is wholly unfunded.“There’s some good news in this story. The different levels of government have committed quite a large chunk of capital money. The bad news is though, we still need another roughly equal amount of capital money,” said Peter Miasek, a spokesperson for Move the GTHA and president of Transport Action Ontario.The report determined that of the $68.1 billion cost to build the Big Move and RER, governments have committed more than half, or $39.3 billion. The bulk of that sum, $30.9 billion, has come from Queen’s Park. That leaves $28.8 billion that federal, provincial and municipal governments need to find over the next decade and a half to complete the network by 2033.The report lists as unfunded projects the relief line subway, extending the Eglinton Crosstown to Pearson Airport, GO Regional Rail service to places such as Bolton and Seaton, Dundas St. bus rapid transit and pushing the Yonge subway north to Richmond Hill.

A task the report calls “equally challenging” to finding money to build transit is raising the funds to operate the expanded network once it’s constructed. The authors estimated that by 2032, the non-capital costs of maintaining the expanded system would reach $3.8 billion a year.

Robert Plitt, a Move the GTHA spokesman and acting director of Evergreen CityWorks, stressed that governments have made “tremendous progress” in transit investment since the launch of the Big Move, which includes such projects as the Eglinton Crosstown, Union Pearson Express, the Mississauga Transitway and York Region bus rapid transit.

But with the federal government promising to invest $120 billion over 10 years in transit and other infrastructure and provincial transit agency Metrolinx in the midst of a review of the Big Move, Move the GTHA timed the release of the report to start a conversation about how to make up the funding shortfall.

“We’re at a moment where it’s possible for us to actually finish the job that we started,” Plitt said.

The group is calling for all three levels of government to hold a “transit summit” as soon as possible to develop a funding strategy.

The report suggested several options for new revenue tools that could be used to pay for transit, including HST and gas tax rate increases, as well as a new parking space levy and a road pricing scheme, but the group didn’t endorse any specific tool.

Asked how the province intends to fund the rest of the planned network, Bob Nichols, a spokesman for the ministry of transportation, didn’t answer directly. Nichols wrote in an email Monday the government is reviewing the Move the GTHA report.

Nichols stated that the GTHA is experiencing “unprecedented” transit growth, and the Liberal government’s Moving Ontario Forward plan includes major investments over the next decade including $13.5 billion for GO RER, $1.4 billion for Hurontario LRT in Mississauga. In total $32 billion in transit projects is already underway, Nichols said.“These investments will help to manage congestion, connect people to jobs and improve the economy and residents’ quality of life. The province will continue to work with its federal and municipal government partners to support these transformational transit investments,” he wrote.The report didn’t break down the $28.8-billion shortfall by municipality, so the value of the unfunded projects that would serve Toronto is unclear. This fall, Toronto city council is expected to debate new revenue tools to pay for its share of the transit network as well as other city priorities.In an email to the Star on Monday, a spokeswoman for Mayor John Tory’s office said he intends to endorse revenue tools when the issue goes before council, with the hope that councillors will approve new revenue sources before the end of the year.

Regional transit plans for the GTHA

By the numbers

1,395 km

Size of rapid transit network planned for 2033

$68.1 billion

Estimated capital cost of new and upgraded transit

$39.3 billion

Amount pledged by federal, provincial, and municipal governments so far

82 minutes

Average time spent commuting today

77 minutes

Average time spent commuting in 2033 if the Big Move is completed

109 minutes

Average time spent commuting in 2033 if transit network isn’t expanded significantly

8.6 million

Projected population of GTHA in 2033

New Home BuyersGet Used To Renting, CIBC Tells TorontoniansBy Daniel Tencer

An overwhelming majority of Toronto’s residents — including millennials — want to own a single-family home, according to a new study from Ryerson University.For many those dreams will be dashed on the rocky shores of rising house prices, which the Ryerson study and a new CIBC report blame partly on provincial densification policies that have reduced single-family home construction to a fraction of its former self.And not only should Torontonians stop dreaming of single-family home ownership (that is, other than those who already own a home), some should even stop dreaming of owning anything at all, the CIBC report says.As Toronto becomes a larger, denser and more expensive city, a larger share of the population will have to rent their housing. The CIBC report suggests that increasingly unrealistic expectations of homeownership are part of what’s driving up house prices in Toronto.

“The GTA is in a twilight zone of home prices characterized by a homeownership mentality that is slow to change to the required higher propensity to rent,” economists Benjamin Tal and Katherine Judge wrote.It’s not just Toronto. Many “globalized” cities around the world have seen substantial jumps in housing prices in recent years, and there, too, experts say more people will have to get used to renting.A recent study looking at London predicted the U.K. capital’s home ownership rate will drop to 40 per cent by 2025, from 60 per cent in 2000. (Toronto’s home ownership rate came in at 68 per cent in the 2011 National Household Survey.)But the Ryerson study, which collected data from a number of earlier surveys, found that Greater Toronto Area residents continue to be as ambitious as ever in their homeownership goals. Only 18 per cent in the GTA prefer apartment housing to ground-level housing.Millennials — who are doing most of the first-home buying — are more likely to prefer apartments, but only slightly, with three-quarters saying they want ground-level housing.Meanwhile, two-thirds of the housing starts in Greater Toronto these days are apartments or condos.“The view that many households in the GTA would willingly give up single-detached houses to move into higher density housing in location-efficient communities is wrong,” the Ryerson study concluded.

A ‘huge windfall’ for those who already own land

 The report warns that Ontario’s densification policies will reduce the quality of life and, in effect, cause a transfer of wealth to existing landowners, from non-landowners.

“Urban policies which try to force [densification] by constraining the supply of new ground-related housing will lead to even higher house prices, sub-optimal location choices, and huge capital gain windfalls for the lucky owners of existing houses and vacant lands….”

Like the Ryerson study, the CIBC analysis also points the finger at restrictive land use policies as being part of what’s driving up house prices.

“Policies such as the ‘Places to Grow Act’ have limited the availability of serviced land for ground-oriented houses through setting aggressive intensification and density targets,” the CIBC report wrote.

The study says Ontario should “reassess” its plan, unveiled earlier this year, to set even higher densification requirements for the southern Ontario area.

Fighting urban sprawl

 But environmental advocates are defending densification targets, as well as the Greenbelt the province put around the GTA to limit urban sprawl.

“Some in the development industry want to keep building sprawling low-density housing. It’s this cookie cutter approach to land use that has caused Ontario’s mess of traffic congestion, hefty residential taxes, and degraded natural environment,” Erin Shapero, the Greenbelt and smart growth program manager for Environmental Defence, told HuffPost Canada in an email.

“It’s time the sprawl developers stop trying to turn back the clock to a 1950s model of growth, where low-density sprawl destroys farms, makes residents car-dependent and creates debts for municipalities struggling to provide services like water and transit to these far-flung subdivisions.”Shapero pointed to a recent study from the Neptis Foundation, which found that enough developable land exists in the GTA “to last to 2031 and likely beyond.”