The Ontario provincial government wants to endow the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal with the same power the defunct Ontario Municipal Board had to overrule decisions made by local-level officials—an initiative brokers say will deliver much-needed housing supply.
“Supply is an issue with housing, and faster, smoother and cheaper methods to get more new housing approved are always good,” said Ron Butler of Butler Mortgage. “One thing is for certain: Ontario’s main cities will continue growing, so let’s make sure there’s room all for all the people.”
As if expensive housing wasn’t bad enough, Butler noted that development fees and levies have grown immensely in the last decade, and because they get passed onto consumers, they’re like an additional tax.
When LPAT replaced the OMB, it was tasked with considering local planning rules when arbitrating developer applications, but a reversal might be just what Toronto needs, according to Rakhee Dhingra, founder of Mortgage Savvy.
“We’re seeing greater demand in the city for housing and the market appears to be rebounding, so this could be a good thing if it increases the supply of housing,” she said.
After a brief nadir, Toronto’s housing market is enjoying an auspicious spring, however, Emily Kiparisas fears the supply dearth could catalyze runaway prices.
“Our clients are going to properties all the time and losing in multiple bid situations because there are so many people putting offers on the same home simply due to supply being so limited,” said the Mortgage Savvy agent. “I think increasing supply is a necessity, especially for high-rise condos, because that’s what first-time buyers are able to afford.”
However, Christine Cowern, a realtor and team lead with Keller Williams Referred Urban Realty, isn’t chuffed by the possibility that LPAT could be given more teeth.
“Historically, the OMB has been very pro-developer, but I don’t think that strengthening the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal’s power will necessarily be a good thing, so from that perspective I agree with Josh Matlow,” Cowern said of the Toronto city councillor who this week vowed to fight the government initiative. “Unless they’re creating a lot of mid- to lower-income housing, all it will do is create more unrestrained density and put services at stake in different neighbourhoods.”
Cowern fields innumerable calls from families distraught about being priced out of Toronto’s real estate market, which she says an emboldened LPAT will worsen.
“Developers will focus on building homes in the highest price points they can,” she said, “but the supply of affordable housing has to increase because this Doug Ford initiative will allow developers to have a free for all. They’re going to build on the higher luxury end that’s mostly unaffordable for the majority of people. You’re not looking at developers that will build three-bedroom condo apartments at $350,000.”