York Region continues to sound alarm bells over Bill 23, warning it would negate its intended goal of making homes affordable by passing on higher property taxes to residents.
“York Regional Council remains committed to addressing the housing affordability crisis and supports the overall goal of Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022,” says York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson.
Bill 23 removes costs previously funded from development charges and introduces several new housing exemptions and discounts – changes that could reduce York Region revenues by at least $497 million and up to $1.6 billion over the next decade. Without a new funding source, the Region says it would be forced to pass along a one-time tax hike of 2.3 to 7.3 per cent, along with a one-time water and wastewater user rate increase of 4.9 to 14.3 per cent to maintain existing service levels.
It doesn’t have to be that way, Emmerson insists. “With all stakeholders continuing to work together, we can meet our shared priority of creating homes for all ages, abilities, incomes and stages of life,” he says. “Adapting to the changes stemming from Bill 23 will involve advancing housing projects while ensuring unintended financial impacts are not solely leveraged through future tax levy increases.”
To help offset the fallout from Bill 23, York Region is calling on the provincial government to confirm funding is in place to provide growth-related infrastructure and community services to support building more homes in York Region over the next 10 years. It also wants Premier Doug Ford to define and apply definitions of affordable and attainable housing in consultation with municipalities, to include “important partners” from the development and homebuilding industry in “relevant conversations” and to reinstate housing services as an eligible service for funding under the Development Charges Act.
“While the intention of Bill 23 is to encourage an increased housing supply, there will be challenges when it comes to the implementation without considering these recommendations,” says Richmond Hill Regional Councillor Joe DiPaola, Chair of the Region’s Planning and Economic Development.
In November, regional council passed a motion put forward by Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti requesting the province halt Bill 23 to allow for more fulsome analysis and meaningful consultation and collaboration with Ontario’s municipalities and other stakeholders. “The concept that growth should pay for growth is a long-held practice of governments around the world,” Scarpitti said at that time.
Despite the region’s pleas, the province passed the bill with just minor amendments. In December, the region once again voiced its concerns about the far-reaching implications of Bill 23 and “strongly requested” the province consult with municipalities.