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Ford snubs Green bill that would legalize fourplexes provincewide

Opposition parties, YIMBY advocates said government needs to move faster on density
A "sold" sign in a new housing development in Lasalle, a borough of Montreal, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.

Opposition parties and pro-housing groups say the Ford government should allow gentle density everywhere, all at once.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner's Bill 156 would require any city or town's official plan to allow fourplexes on any residential lot, and six- to 11-storey buildings along major streets. Both moves are recommendations from the province's own Housing Affordability Task Force. 

The Tories moved to cut debate short on Schreiner's bill and sent it to committee last Thursday, where it could languish indefinitely.

Schreiner said he was "shocked."

"The government had a chance to debate this bill ... to send a strong message that they support building homes by ending exclusionary zoning, something that every party in this legislature campaigned on in the last election. But the government skipped that opportunity today and passed the bill straight to committee," he said in a Wednesday morning press conference at Queen's Park.

The Green leader said he hopes to keep the pressure up so it can become law, one way or another.

"If the government wants to steal all the ideas in Bill 156 and take credit for it, I'm OK with that," he said.

Housing Minister Paul Calandra's office did not comment by press time.

A previous Ford government housing plan required municipalities to allow existing detached homes, semis or townhouses to be divided into up to three residential units, up from two. It's taken other steps to increase density in some downtowns, while expanding so-called sprawl development elsewhere.

The other two opposition parties said they support Schreiner's proposed changes. 

"We've been pushing for this for years," NDP Leader Marit Stiles said. "We need to see the government move forward with some bold housing plans right now."

She noted that housing starts have declined, putting the government's 1.5-million-home target in jeopardy.

"Something has to happen faster, and it's certainly consistent with the policy that we've put forward," she said.

Adil Shamji, the Liberals' new housing critic as of Wednesday morning, said his party was also on board.

"And that probably should come as no surprise," Shamji said, noting that Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie ended her term as Mississauga mayor by pushing through as-a-right fourplexes

"And so those ideas come naturally to us, and in fact will be part of a broader and very aggressive and progressive housing plan to come," Shamji said.

Crombie has sought to fight PC attempts to label her as the "NIMBY (not in my backyard) mayor," saying she dealt with a city council that was resistant to change, but that she now embraces density.

YIMBY (yes, in my backyard) group More Neighbours Toronto appeared alongside Schreiner on Wednesday to push for his bill, along with the Guelph and District Association of Realtors and Clip Homes, a prefab construction company that builds multiplexes.

"Our research indicates that if approximately 17.8 per cent of single-family home blocks were transformed into multiplexes, we could effectively double the number of households" in southern Ontario, Clip founder and CEO Abdur Chatni said.

Schreiner said what even pro-density politicians are often loathe to admit: adding lots more homes "will help drive down the cost of housing."

He said he's gotten good feedback on the legislation he proposed from municipal leaders large and small. For those that aren't on board, he urged them to think of the children (and others).

"My message is, if you say no to legalizing housing, you're saying no to young people being able to afford the dream of home ownership," as well as seniors looking to downsize, and councils looking for federal funding for densification, he said.

"So hey, everybody in Ontario, let's get on board and say yes to homes that people can afford in the communities they love."


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Jack Hauen

About the Author: Jack Hauen

Jack has been covering Queen’s Park since 2019. Beats near to his heart include housing, transportation, municipalities, health and the environment. He especially enjoys using freedom of information requests to cause problems.
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