Premier Doug Ford blames slow approval of permits for lack of affordable housing in Ontario

The Progressive Conservative caucus is already tackling topics that will likely be decisive in the next provincial election in seven months.

Premier Doug Ford and his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark (Courtesy of The Canadian Press)

According to Premier Doug Ford, the high cost of housing in Ontario is caused by the delayed approval of permits by municipalities. Next month he will host a summit with mayors from 29 of Ontario’s biggest cities to discuss solutions to this problem.  

A polling firm for the Progressive Conservative caucus has begun surveying Ontarians for their expectations regarding housing policies. And for the past few weeks, Ford has been repeating how the slow approval of permits by municipalities is an obstacle to affordable housing.  

“Believe it or not, folks, sometimes when [developers] apply for a permit, it can take four to six years. Where in North America does it take four to six years?”. 

Premier Ford’s government wants to build more houses as quickly as possible. (Courtesy of Reuters)

According to the latest report from the Canadian Real Estate Association, house prices in Ontario grew 30% on average, with the GTA “really surging forward”. However, in other regions like Woodstock-Ingersoll, home prices grew 70% since 2019.  

A consultant’s report from the Building Industry and Land Development Association also points to an increase in housing costs due to delayed permit approvals. According to it, each month of delay can add from $1.46 to $2.21 per square foot to the price of the project, depending on its size. 

To encourage construction, Ford’s government has been issuing more ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) than ever. These orders grant his Cabinet fast and unquestioned powers to override all local planning and consultation rules to approve constructions.  

Last Thursday, his Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, also talked about the issue at a virtual conference. He told the Empire Club of Canada, the government will review “if there’s anything the province can do to make it easier in the short term and is there anything that municipalities need as resources from us in terms of regulations or legislation to help make it easier.” 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at a press conference (Courtesy of CBC)

Government adversaries, however, question the Premier. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Ford is mostly looking out for “his developer buddies first and foremost.” Friday at a news conference in Stratford she said that “instead of blaming municipalities,” Ford could implement “taxes on those wealthy investors and on those corporations that are scooping up the housing stock and pushing families out.”. She referred to a recent report from Teranet Market Insight that shows that investors represent 25% of homebuyers in Ontario. 

Both the City of Toronto and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario have agreed to meet with the Premier to discuss ways to make development processes easier. 

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