As mentioned in some of our previous posts, the Ontario government is currently working to improve land-use planning in our province through an 80-day public consultation process.
One important aspect under review at the consultation is the often misunderstood Section 37 of the Planning Act, which permits municipalities to pass bylaws to authorize increases in height and/or density beyond what is otherwise permitted in return for facilities, services or matters that benefit the community such as parks, school playgrounds or community centres.
The selection of community benefits is made on the basis of local community needs, the nature of the development application, any implementation guidelines or plans adopted by council, and the strategic objectives and policies of the Official Plan. These vary with each proposed development.
One of the issues surrounding Section 37 today is that the base density found in zoning bylaws across the GTA is badly outdated. This means that neighbourhoods suitable for high-density development are still zoned for low-density housing, leading to higher Section 37 fees for new-home purchasers.
Is it fair for new-condo buyers to pay more for these homes because of outdated zoning bylaws that don’t conform to the Official Plan? What about the Provincial Growth Plan, which places a great emphasis on intensification in the GTA?
If a project is in conformity with the Provincial Growth Plan and Official Plan policies and objectives, due consideration should be made when negotiating Section 37 fees to ensure that our industry can continue to build homes people can afford.
Much like development charges, Section 37 fees can be put toward transit or other types of capital facilities. But are these payments being used for their intended purposes?
Accountability from the municipalities is lacking as the community should be provided assurance that the funds collected will be spent on the intended community improvement projects.
It’s worthwhile noting that in priority neighbourhoods, a development can be considered a community benefit as it offers improvement through neighbourhood revitalization. Waiving Section 37 charges in priority neighbourhoods will help our industry build more affordable homes in areas that need it most.
BILD and it’s members sincerely hope that these provincial consultations lead to a fair and reasonable outcome of Section 37 policies so that we can continue to build affordable, quality, complete communities across the GTA.