City of Toronto Moves Ahead with Modernizing the Toronto Building Division

The City of Toronto Moves Ahead with Modernizing the Toronto Building Division

The City of Toronto (the “City”) continues its modernization process and now proposes reforms to the Toronto Building Division (“Toronto Building”). Toronto Building’s role is to ensure that the City’s built environment is safe, healthy and accessible through controlling the issuance of building permits and performing building inspections. As the City’s building priorities adapt and change, there is a push to modernize Toronto Building’s operating model so that it reflects these changes.

On May 20, 2021 , the Planning and Housing Committee (the “PHC”) commenced the modernization process by adopting the recommendations set forth in Item 23.15 during its committee meeting. These recommendations direct the Chief Building Official and the Executive Director of Toronto Building to report back to the PHC in the second quarter of 2022 to provide an update on the implementation of the following recommendations:

  1. Strengthening the existing processes related to demolition approvals, in collaboration with Heritage Preservation Services so that local City Councillors are notified of demolition applications for commercial buildings in their ward;
  2. Implementing clear and accessible web-based tools to provide the public with current information on the status of Toronto Building investigation and enforcement activity, including complaints received through 311 Toronto; and
  3. Developing a strategy, in consultation with the General Managers of Transportation Services and Municipal Licensing and Standards, to minimize the adverse impacts on the public as a result of large construction projects occurring within close proximity to one another.

The recommendations build on a Report published in May 2021 by KPMG, which provides a review of the Toronto Building Program, as well as on Toronto Building’s desire to become a client-centric regulator. The recommendations look to provide a more flexible and adaptive approach for different development types and to respond to ongoing issues faced by the City.

Recommendation 1 will likely work to prevent wholesale destruction of heritage buildings, in response to the recent media attention that demolition approvals have received. This recommendation may result in greater awareness of demolition applications on behalf of local councillors, to ensure that council is notified in a timely matter in case they wish to designate buildings under Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Meanwhile, Recommendation 3 is likely a response to situations where multiple developments occur in close proximity to each other and, among other things, the future intensive construction along the rail corridor in Riverside. A fourth rail for expanded GO service is being proposed in the same area as the construction of the Ontario Line (cross section here). While impact studies have been done for both projects individually, neither project has considered the impact of the other in its reports. Recommendation 3 would result in more onerous requirements to consider the cumulative impacts of both projects.

This modernization will attempt to align Toronto Building with other transformation initiatives throughout the City such as the Concept to Keys program which, as we previously discussed here, is similarly reforming the development review process. For Toronto Building, a new permit application process will streamline simple projects by allowing the Division to work directly with applicants, either through face to face or virtual meetings, to address any outstanding deficiencies. Staff, services, and other resources will provide their services city-wide, rather than per district. A new service delivery model will also create new “back office” functions to enhance communication between City divisions, reduce costs through improved efficiency, and improve client satisfaction.

The PHC Item will proceed to Toronto City Council at its June 8/9 meetings for final consideration. If approved, Toronto Building will commence its modernization process.