Another Bill, More Reversals: A Summary of Bill 185 and Proposed Provincial Policy Changes

Another Bill, More Reversals: A Summary of Bill 185 and Proposed Provincial Policy Changes

On April 10th, 2024, the Province introduced Bill 185 the Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024, along with a new draft of the Provincial Planning Statement (“PPS”), which contains revisions to the draft released last June, 2023.

The stated goals of the recent suite of changes include expediting housing construction by cutting red tape and streamlining approvals.

Overall, Bill 185 contains amendments to 15 different statutes. We’ve summarized some of the key changes proposed to the Planning Act and Development Charges Act below.  Keep in mind that the Bill is currently undergoing second reading and is not yet enacted or in-force. Further changes could be made before the Bill is enacted in its final form.

Removal of Third-Party OLT Appeals

As was contemplated in an earlier version of Bill 23 (which we wrote about here), Bill 185 proposes to remove third-party appeals from municipal decisions to adopt or amend official plans  and zoning by-laws. The appeal of any of these planning instruments would be limited to the applicant, the Minister, “public bodies” or “specified persons” who made oral or written submissions to Council prior to a decision being made. Public Bodies and Specified Persons are defined in the Planning Act and generally include government and utility boards and agencies.

These changes are proposed to apply retroactively, such that all existing third-party appeals which did not have a hearing on the merits scheduled before April 10th would be automatically dismissed. This would include matters where a mediation, settlement negotiations, or case management conference has been scheduled, but a merit-hearing has not.

Reintroduction of Settlement Boundary Appeals

The Bill reintroduces the ability to appeal from the refusal or failure to decide on applications which seek to establish or expand a settlement boundary, except where lands are within the Greenbelt Area.  This represents a significant expansion of appeal rights by lifting a prohibition which has been in place since the Planning and Conservation Land Statute Law Amendment Act came into force in 2006.

Phased Removal of Planning Responsibilities for Certain Upper Tier Municipalities

The removal of planning responsibilities from certain upper-tier municipalities, as introduced through Bill 23 (detailed here), is now proposed to be implemented in phases. York, Halton, and Peel are set to become “upper-tier municipalities without planning responsibilities” on the later of July 1, 2024 or when Bill 185 receives Royal Assent, while the remainder of the listed upper-tiers – Simcoe, Durham, Niagara and Waterloo – will do so at a future date to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor.

Use it or Lose It Provisions

Bill 185 proposes to amend the site plan provisions of the Planning Act and City of Toronto Act, 2006 to permit decision makers to include a lapsing date on site plan approvals. Where lapsing dates are included, the site plan approval will expire if no building permit is issued within the specified time period, which must be a minimum of three years or as prescribed in future regulations.

Amendments are also proposed to require lapsing provisions to be included in draft plan of subdivision approvals, whereas currently it is optional to do so.  The proposed time period for lapsing of draft plan approvals is the same as in the site plan amendments at a minimum of three years or as prescribed by regulation.

Cancellation of Application Fee Refunds and Mandatory Pre-Consultation

The Bill proposes to amend the Planning Act and the City of Toronto Act, 2006 to remove the power of municipalities to require that applicants consult with them prior to submitting certain development applications. Municipalities will continue to be required to permit applicants to engage in pre-consultation.

A highly-anticipated change that is expected to be welcomed by both municipalities and developers, Bill 185 proposes to eliminate the mandatory application fee refunds introduced through Bill 109 in 2022. Currently, refunds of application fees for zoning by-law amendment and site plan control applications are required to be paid on an increasing basis where no decision has been made within the legislated timelines.

Lastly, the Bill proposes to move up the timeframe within which an applicant may make a motion to the OLT for a determination of complete application to any time after a pre-consultation period has started. The combined effect of these changes will reduce the need for municipalities to resort to lengthy pre-consultation processes as a way to avoid application fee refunds, while allowing applicants quicker recourse should they find themselves stuck in “pre-consultation limbo”.

Removal of Parking Minimums

A suite of changes has been proposed aimed at increasing development through a reduction in building costs. One of the biggest changes in this regard is the removal of vehicle parking requirements on lands located within Protected Major Transit Station Areas (“PMTSA”). While the City of Toronto removed its own parking minimums for lands in PMTSAs in late 2021 (see our post here for details), this change will apply to other municipalities which have identified PMTSAs.

Minimum parking standards for bicycles continue to be allowed.

Community Infrastructure Housing Accelerator

Under Bill 185 the Planning Act would be amended to eliminate Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) orders, a relatively new, but not particularly well understood tool introduced through Bill 109 (see our post here for details). The powers respecting Ministerial Zoning Orders (“MZO”) will remain in place and have been untouched in Bill 185, but a new framework for MZOs has been introduced with the intent of establishing a more transparent process for consideration of MZO requests.

Revisions to Development Charge Phasing and Freeze Period

Bill 23’s amendments to the Development Charges Act, 1997, which required a “5-year phase in” of development charge rates (see our post here for details) have been discontinued, allowing for development charges to be levied at their full rates if and when Bill 185 comes into force.

In addition, the Bill reduces the “freeze period” for development charge payments from two years to 18 months. This means an applicant will need to obtain a building permit within 18 months following approval of a zoning by-law amendment or site plan, in order to secure the rates that were in effect on the date that those applications were made.

Other Legislative Changes

Further legislative changes are proposed by Bill 185 related to adjusting notice requirements, limiting zoning restrictions on accessory residential units (ARU’s), exempting universities from the Planning Act, exempting standardized housing designs from zoning restrictions, and permitting municipalities to establish policies providing for the allocation of water and sewage capacity.

Proposed Provincial Planning Statement, 2024

The Province is seeking feedback on a new draft of the PPS. You can find our previous posts related to last year’s PPS drafts here and here.

The 2024 draft PPS builds off the earlier drafts and proposes several new changes that are intended to increase the available supply of land for housing and encourage the construction of new housing on underutilized lots and near major transit station areas.

These changes include:

  • establishing minimum targets for the provision of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households;
  • a greater emphasis on the redevelopment of underutilized commercial (plazas, etc) and institutional sites for the construction of new housing;
  • eliminating the distinction between large and fast growing municipalities and other municipalities and requiring all planning authorities to delineate boundaries of Major Transit Station Areas; and
  • adjusting the policy considerations for settlement area expansions.

These are only some of the many changes proposed in this draft. We’ll have a further breakdown in a future post of all the major changes being proposed by the 2024 draft PPS.


Stay Tuned

Davies Howe will continue to monitor changes to the Bill as it progresses through the Legislature, and will be posting more about the Bill in the coming days and weeks.