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The Ontario Government have introduced a Bill, called the Promoting Affordable Housing Act, 2016, to promote various strategies designed to end homelessness in Ontario and to encourage the provision of more affordable housing options in the province. The Bill is part of the government’s initiative which builds on a report prepared in March of this year. “A Place to Call Home” is a report of an expert advisory panel on homelessness which called for an end to what they called Chronic Homelessness within ten years.
A major finding of the Report was that there is no “one size fits all” solution to homelessness in Ontario. It is a problem which affects young people particularly, which is often a hidden problem, and which has to be dealt with on a community level. This would require that “Municipalities be required to carry out local equity impact assessments to work toward equitable outcomes of housing and homelessness plans and policies”. To this end, the Report recommended that “The Province support local municipalities with tools, resources, and funding to support local capacity to carry out equity impact assessments”and “provide increased funding to support capacity building and local system transformation and commit to long-term, stable funding for affordable housing and homelessness-related programs, as opposed to annualized funding”.
This is the context in which the Promoting Affordable Housing Act has been introduced. The government believes the Act would help to increase the supply of affordable housing and modernise existing social housing by introducing “inclusionary zoning” provisions in municipalities. This would mean that municipalities like North Grenville or Merrickville-Wolford would be able to require that affordable units be included in any new residential development. The current Strategic Plan for North Grenville contains similar provisions, but it does not seem that they have ever been enforced.
The proposed Act would also encourage municipalities to exempt secondary suites in new homes from Development Charges. The Province believes that “Secondary suites are a potential source of affordable rental housing and allow homeowners to earn some extra income from their property”. There are also provisions that would make it more difficult to evict tenants from social housing units and give local Service Managers, who supervise such units, more flexibility in administering and delivering social housing in their communities. This would allow for more local control over affordable housing options.
It is the intention of the provincial government to begin consultations with municipalities, developers and interested parties in order to develop a framework for implementing the provisions of the Act when passed. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing have stated that “the proposed framework for inclusionary zoning would allow municipalities to implement measures like height and density, and to offer incentives such as reduced parking, waived or reduced fees and faster approval processes. This would help to address potential issues related to the economic profitability of development proposals”.
The 2016 Ontario Budget announced an investment of $178 million over three years to support the updated strategy.

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