Improved housing starts

In 2020, the year after More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan was implemented, Ontario had over 81,000 housing starts, the highest level in a decade, and over 11,000 rental starts, the highest level since 1992.

These trends continued in 2021. Ontario had over 100,000 housing starts, the highest level since 1987, and more than 13,000 rental starts, the highest level in 30 years.

Chart 1: Housing starts in Ontario from 1990–2021

Line graph of housing starts from 1990 to 2021

Chart 1 description: Line graph of housing starts from 1990, showing that 2021 had the highest level of housing starts in over 30 years.

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Starts and Completions Survey

While housing starts have hit record levels over the last two years, unnecessary red tape is still slowing down construction and preventing more homes from being built at the pace Ontarians need and deserve.

Those delays are also increasing costs and adding to Ontario’s housing affordability problem. For example:

  • A recent Scotiabank housing report found that Ontario is last in the country in the supply of homes per capita, and Canada has the lowest amount of housing per capita of any G7 country.
  • The Ontario Association of Architects (PDF) concluded that, for a 100-unit condominium apartment building in Toronto, delayed approvals cost about $1,940 per unit, per month.
  • A BILD study (PDF) looked at the impact of delays on low-rise construction. It estimated that approval delays add an average of $2,920 per month to a single-family home in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (PDF) highlighted historical provincial agency review timelines and backlogs at the Ontario Land Tribunal that slow housing development, while incomplete applications also cause delays.
  • According to the World Bank (PDF), Canada ranks 34th out of 35 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for the length of time to obtain all approvals for a building project.
  • Requirements to build new housing vary from one municipality to another, with anywhere from 17 to 28 different studies for a single project, and approvals timelines from 14 months to three years.

These added costs and delays drive up the cost of homes and are passed on to new home buyers and renters.

In 2019 we introduced a range of solutions — early steps and longer-term approaches — to increase Ontario’s housing supply.

Chart 2: Rental housing starts in Ontario from 1990–2021

Line graph of rental housing starts from 1990 to 2021

Chart 2 description: Line graph of rental housing starts from 1990, showing that 2021 had the most rental housing starts since 1991 (for areas with over 10K population).

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Starts and Completions Survey

Reduced administrative burden to speed up housing approvals

Accelerated timelines

We accelerated timelines to get housing built faster by reducing:

  • Official Plan Amendment timelines from 210 days to 120 days
  • zoning by-law amendment timelines from 150 days to 90 days
  • plan of subdivision timelines from 180 days to 120 days

We also introduced a new:

  • 90-day timeline for issuing a notice of intention to designate
  • 120-day timeline for passing a designation by-law to help conserve heritage properties while allowing for compatible development

We invested up to $350 million to help municipalities modernize services and achieve faster turnarounds, through three programs:

Faster housing starts

We are helping to get homes built faster to address the housing supply crisis. For example:

  • We now allow municipal councils to delegate planning decision-making authority for minor zoning by-law amendments to committees or staff, helping shorten approval timelines and get homes built faster.
  • We are creating new archaeology standards for rural historic farmstead sites to reduce complex and expensive excavations.

In partnership with municipalities, we are using Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) to kick-start the planning approvals process by getting the zoning in place for critical local projects, including housing, long-term care homes, and health care facilities. MZOs have existed in the Planning Act since 1946.

MZOs have enabled the CaféTO program in the City of Toronto and helped hospitals, like Sunnybrook in Toronto and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Innisfil, expand their health care facilities to respond to COVID-19 and support healthy, growing communities. They are also:

  • accelerating over 58,000 new housing units, including 600 units of supportive housing
  • creating over 68,000 jobs
  • creating over 4,100 new long-term care beds
  • protecting groundwater in the City of Guelph to support safe drinking water for the community

Streamlined processes

We streamlined and combined processes to make them more efficient. For example:

  • A municipality no longer needs to submit individual “pipe-by-pipe” applications to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for future sewage and stormwater infrastructure projects. Now simple, low-risk changes like extensions and replacements can be pre-authorized to begin construction provided they maintain strong environmental oversight and protection.
  • Merging five land tribunals into the single Ontario Land Tribunal made the land dispute resolution process more efficient, reducing delays and eliminating overlap between cases.
  • Entering into an agreement to further harmonize the Ontario Building Code with codes across Canada to cut costs, help reduce inter-provincial trade barriers and create a broader market for building products. In addition, clarifying that the Building Code allows remote building inspections to reduce delays and improve efficiency.

Addressed backlogs at the Ontario Land Tribunal

Hiring 12 new adjudicators in 2019, for what is now called the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), has helped reduce the backlog of Ontario Municipal Board cases by more than two-thirds, from 1,200 cases in June 2019 to about 380 in early March 2022.

Chart 3: Hiring 12 new land use planning appeal tribunal adjudicators have reduced case backlogs

Chart illustrating the addition of 12 new adjudicators and reduction in Ontario Municipal Board cases between June 2019 and March 2022

Chart 3 description: 12 icons of people with clipboards to represent the new adjudicators, next to a bar chart that shows cases reducing from 1,200 in June 2019 to 380 by March 2022.

Encouraged innovation

Embracing innovation in housing keeps Ontario’s eye firmly on the future, such as:

  • updating the Building Code to make it easier to relocate tiny homes that are constructed in one municipality and shipped to the owner’s property in another municipality
  • investing $44M to fund a school inside a new mixed-use condominium project

We also developed guides on a variety of complex subjects to help homeowners and homebuyers understand diverse and creative housing options:

Made more land available for housing

Whether it’s a big empty field or a small backyard, housing requires land and infrastructure such as water, electricity and transit. We’ve turned unused provincial lands into affordable homes, like the Homes for Heroes project in Kingston for homeless veterans. We’ve made it easier to build smaller, more affordable types of homes (for example, laneway houses, basement apartments and tiny homes) often on existing residential properties.

We’ve helped home builders to estimate development charges earlier in the planning process, while ensuring municipalities can still provide the infrastructure needed to support new homes, and created a community benefits charge to help municipalities fund infrastructure for developments over five storeys and/or ten units.

We’re also encouraging the redevelopment of underutilized commercial and industrial properties into housing by enhancing the Brownfields Financial Tax Incentive Program.

Growth planning

Planning for growth is key to making sure future generations can find affordable homes. We’ve updated A Place To Grow to make it easier for municipalities to plan for growth based on projected market demand (using a new Land Needs Assessment) and to encourage municipalities to look at least 30 years into the future, so Ontarians can be confident that there’s enough land to accommodate new homes and businesses.

We have been steadfast in our commitment to protect the Greenbelt, and we will not consider proposals to remove or develop any part of it at this time. We will continue to take a balanced approach that protects the environment and supports smart growth to create much-needed housing and jobs.

Supported tenants and landlords

Our Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act discouraged bad faith “renovictions” by increasing tenant compensation and raising the maximum fines to $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation.

To protect tenants in response to COVID-19, Ontario was one of the first provinces to freeze rent increases in 2021 and gave relief to the vast majority of Ontario’s 1.7 million tenants, while also encouraging tenants and landlords to develop rent repayment agreements. We reduced energy costs with the Ontario Electricity Rebate and by introducing off-peak electricity rates to support landlords and tenants spending more time at home during the pandemic.

Hiring more adjudicators and updating computer systems has helped the Landlord and Tenant Board to reduce their hearing wait times for most applications by 2–3 months.

Created more affordable housing

Supply is not just a problem for market housing, there’s also a shortage of affordable housing supply.

That’s why we deferred development charges to be paid in installments over five years for rental and over 20 years for non-profit housing and removed development charges for second suites in new builds like basement apartments and granny flats.

Through our Community Housing Renewal Strategy and response to COVID-19, we invested more than $3 billion combined in 2020–21 and 2021–22, which is helping sustain, repair and grow community housing and address homelessness in Ontario. This includes investments to service managers and Indigenous program administrators through the Social Services Relief Fund to improve housing and homeless shelter solutions and support vulnerable people through these challenging times.

The Homelessness Prevention Program, which launches April 1, 2022, streamlines and simplifies access to provincial housing and homelessness supports, and provides nearly $464 million each year.

Strengthened rural and northern communities

In 2020, the year after More Homes, More Choice was implemented, small and rural municipalities saw double the number of housing starts compared with the year before. In 2021 this growth continued, with small and rural municipalities seeing triple the number of starts compared with 2020 — the highest level in over three decades. 

Here are some of the changes that helped make that possible:

  • We’ve made it easier to transfer parcels of land, by making Ontario’s subdivision control system clearer for the real estate sector, which supports new home building in rural areas. The Planning Act sets out how land may be divided into parcels. We’ve addressed a number of long-standing issues with technical and policy changes to reduce red tape, simplify subdivision control and save owners and applicants time and money.
  • Changes to the Provincial Policy Statement also gave northern and rural municipalities more flexibility to support appropriate development in areas without full municipal sewer/water services.
  • Using more wood-based modular and pre-fabricated housing construction leverages Ontario’s manufacturing industry and also supports the forest sector and the rural and Indigenous communities who rely on it for their livelihood. By investing in modern wood-based industrialized construction, like Element5’s facility in St Thomas, Ontario is investing in our local manufacturing sector, using our own locally sourced sustainable natural resources and encouraging the use of low-carbon home building materials to aid in the fight against climate change.
  • We’ve also invested nearly $500,000 to train 625 northern workers, including Indigenous people, for in-demand electrical worker jobs.

Addressed skilled labour shortages

One of the reasons behind the housing supply shortage is the difficulty finding skilled tradespeople — the electricians, plumbers and carpenters who build much-needed homes. Our Skilled Trades Strategy simplifies Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system and encourages employers to participate. It also removes barriers for newcomers pursuing their skilled trade licences, such as the requirement for Canadian work experience.

Our Skills Development Fund: Job-Ready Program gives 125 jobseekers free training and work experience in residential construction in partnership with the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. These measures will help increase the number of qualified skilled tradespeople, which helps to speed up new home construction.