Well - there goes the neighbourhood! Draft housing report suggests not protecting 'character' of neighbourhoods and permit 4 storey apartments anywhere

By Staff

January 26th, 2022



Marcello Alaimo, operator of Exquisite Living released some comment on the draft of the Housing Task Force that is expected to release the report and its 58 recommendation at the end of the month.

The task force that was asked to find ways to make Ontario housing more affordable wants to do away with rules that entrench single-family homes as the main option in many residential neighbourhoods, according to a draft report.

The nine-member Housing Affordability Task Force, chaired by Scotiabank CEO Jake Lawrence, wants to “create a more permissive land use, planning, and approvals systems” and throw out rules that stifle change or growth — including ones that protect the “character” of neighbourhoods across the province.

The wide-ranging 31-page draft report, which is making the rounds in municipal planning circles and could look much different when it’s officially released Jan. 31, makes 58 recommendations.

Zoned commercial, spitting distance to the QEW, minutes from downtown – owner wants to rezone and make it residential.

It includes discussions on speeding up approval processes, waiving development charges for infill projects, allowing vacant commercial property owners to transition to residential units, and letting urban boundaries expand “efficiently and effectively.”

It also calls for all municipalities — and building code regulations — not to make it just easier for homeowners to add secondary suites, garden homes, and laneway houses to their properties, but also to increase height, size and density along “all major and minor arterials and transit corridors” in the form of condo and apartment towers.

© Kate Porter/CBC One of the task force’s recommendations is to create rules that would bypass community opposition to adding density in existing neighbourhoods. 4-storey complexes in all neighbourhoods.

But perhaps the most controversial recommendation is the one to virtually do away with so-called exclusionary zoning, which allows only a single-family detached home to be built on a property.

Built by the ADI Group – this four storey could be placed anywhere in the city if the Housing Task Force makes it through the legislature.

Instead, the task force recommends that in municipalities with a population of more than 100,000, the province should “allow any type of residential housing up to four storeys and four units on a single residential lot,” subject to urban design guidance that’s yet to be defined.

According to the report, Ontario lags behind many other G7 countries when it comes to the number of dwellings per capita. And housing advocates have long argued that more modest-projects — duplexes, triplexes, tiny homes and townhouses — are needed in established neighbourhoods, especially if the environmental and infrastructure costs of sprawl are to be avoided.

But neighbourhood infill and intensification is often a hard political sell.
“While everyone might agree that we have a housing crisis, that we have a climate emergency, nobody wants to see their neighbourhoods change,” said Coun. Glen Gower, who co-chairs Ottawa’s planning committee. “So that’s really the challenge that we’re dealing with in Ottawa and in Ontario.”

After last week’s housing summit with Ontario’s big city mayors, reporters repeatedly asked Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark if he supported doing away with zoning for single-detached homes, as other jurisdictions like Edmonton and major New Zealand cities have done.

Clark said he’d heard the idea but did not give a direct answer one way or the other.
© CBC Coun. Glen Gower is the co-chair of Ottawa council’s planning committee. He welcomes the discussion about housing affordability in the task force report, but concedes that allowing four-storey, four-unit dwellings in every neighbourhood could be a hard sell.

Reduce construction barriers, approval requirements
Many of the recommendations revolve around making it easier and faster for builders to construct homes.

According to the draft report, not only would a streamlined process allow dwellings to get on the market faster, but reducing approval times would also save developers money which, in theory, could be passed onto residents.

The report cites an Ontario Association of Architects study from 2018 showing that costs for a 100-unit condo building increase by $193,000 for every month the project is delayed.
That’s why, for example, the task force is recommending that any “underutilized or redundant commercial properties” be allowed to be converted to residential units without municipal approvals.

The draft report also calls for quasi-automatic approval for projects up to 10 units that conform to existing official plans and zoning, and goes so far to recommend that municipalities “disallow public consultations” for these applications.

The report speaks to reducing what the task force characterizes as “NIMBY” factors in planning decisions, recommending the province set Ontario-wide standards for specifics like setbacks, shadow rules and front doors, while excluding details like exterior colour and building materials from the approval process.

The task force would even eliminate minimum parking requirements for new projects.
Politicians say more than just supply needed

The report touches on a number of subjects it believes unnecessarily delay the building of new homes, including how plans approved by city councils can be appealed.

It recommends the province restore the right of developers to appeal official plans — a power that was removed by the previous Liberal government.

And in an effort to eliminate what it calls “nuisance” appeals, the task force recommends that the fee a third party — such as a community group — pays to appeal projects to the Ontario Land Tribunal should be increased from the current $400 to $10,000.

© CBC NDP housing critic Jessica Bell supports doing away with exclusionary zoning, but says many more measures, including building more affordable homes, are needed.

That doesn’t sit well with NDP MPP Jessica Bell, the party’s housing critic. who said “My initial take is that any attempt to make the land tribunal even more difficult for residents to access is concerning,” said Bell, adding the NDP is asking stakeholders and community members for feedback.

The tribunal can overturn a municipal council’s “democratically decided law,” she said, “and I would be pretty concerned if it costs $10,000 for a third party to go to the land tribunal and bring up some valid evidence.”

While she was pleased to see the task force address zoning reform to encourage the construction of town homes, duplexes and triplexes in existing neighbourhoods — the so-called “missing middle” between single-family homes and condo towers — Bell said increasing supply is not enough to improve housing for all Ontarians.

“We need government investment in affordable housing,” she said. “We need better protections for renters, and we need measures to clamp down on speculation in the housing market … We need a more holistic and comprehensive approach than what we are seeing in this draft report right now.”

(While the task force was directed by the province to focus on increasing the housing supply through private builders, it acknowledges in the report that “Ontario’s affordable housing shortfall was raised in almost every conversation” with stakeholders.)

© CBCGreen Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner says he’s opposed to the task force’s recommendation to allow urban boundaries to expand.

Expanding urban boundaries another concern
From his first reading of the report, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner agreed with the zoning recommendations but said streamlined processes need to be balanced with maintaining public consultations and heritage designations.  “One of my concerns with my very quick read of the draft report is that it talks about expanding urban boundaries … and I’m opposed to that,” he told CBC.

Everything to the left of the red line along Hwy 407 and Dundas are part of the rural boundary.

“We simply can’t keep paving over the farmland that feeds us, the wetlands that clean our drinking water [and] protect us from flooding, especially when we already have about 88,000 acres within existing urban boundaries in southern Ontario available for development,” he said.

Schreiner said he’s also “deeply concerned” that the report discusses aligning housing development with the province’s plan for Highway 413 in the GTA.   “I simply don’t think we can spend over $10 billion to build a highway that will supercharge climate pollution, supercharge sprawl, making life less affordable for people and paving over 2,000 acres of farmland


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15 comments to Well – there goes the neighbourhood! Draft housing report suggests not protecting ‘character’ of neighbourhoods and permit 4 storey apartments anywhere

  • Alfred


    I think Bruce is politely suggesting you missed the 3rd option. That is the Grow up Not out. Intensify within the Urban boundry. That is generally the pretence under which the Governments past and present are working under. That would include all the other Municipalities in Ontario. So your idea is to scrap all this because Burlington is not happy. These dying Municipalities sound like a Nimby’s dream area to live. Ever considered moving there yourself. The Growing GTA train is going to be hard to stop.

    I think these Municipalities will do just fine if jobs are created that are viable in these areas. Affordability has a big influence in determining where people live. Only having a job trumps that.

  • Stephen White

    These discussions around density, intensification and population growth continue to be framed in stark polarities. One has to be either pro-development or anti-development. One is either in favour of preserving farmland and green space or else they support expansion of urban boundaries and eradication of farmland. The polarization of this debate into dichotomies is not helpful, and it does nothing to facilitate a solution.

    Fact is: there are literally thousands of communities across this province and country that are dying (e.g. Sault Ste. Marie; Sudbury; Chatham; Sarnia; Timmins; Renfrew; etc.). One industry towns have lost their major employers. Older residents are dying. Young people move to urban centres in search of education and employment. The local tax base is eroding. The local housing stock is steadily deteriorating.

    The advent of new technologies easily permits working remotely. The government should be adopting and facilitating public policy initiatives to encourage population movement to smaller centres. Offer tax incentives to businesses to relocate or expand. Offer first time home buyers incentives to buy homes at greatly reduced prices, and to build/retrofit where necessary.

    This type of initiative is not new. It was implemented in England after WW II when huge swaths of London were so severely destroyed that they couldn’t be re-built in time to house an expanding population. And no: we aren’t talking about ploughing over farmland or destroying green space. By the same token, shoe-horning millions more people into the GTA is a prescription for environmental degradation just like California.

    The PC’s, Liberals, NDP and Greens are so hidebound and lacking in imagination and creativity that they can’t think outside the box. Sad to think I may have to park my vote with a fringe party next election in the hope they might apply some creativity to this debate.

    • Bruce Leigh

      You mischaracterize what many express here. It is not a matter of being either pro or anti development. Many express an anti downtown over intensification sentiments but are pro large scale housing developments in appropriate areas such as surrounding the three GO Stations. I have not heard any meaningful volume of support for building over any greenbelt areas.

      Your suggestions to generate a reversal of the population movement are positive and should certain be considered, and I think implemented.

      But those initiatives will not address the affordable &/or rental housing issue. Neither you or anyone else (other than Alfred who I discount) has commented for or against my “next steps” shown here. Why is that?

  • Alfred

    Hi. Leslie.

    Thank you for bringing up the 2017 Shoreacres OMB. Decision. ( There were numerous by-laws included in this package)

    Firstly the decision did not have a full hearing. City Legal wanted the matter thrown out because of an apparent error on the appeal form. 700 pieces of information were not even entered into evidence. Secondly the Director of Planning of Burlington was now the Head of the OMB. Tribunals. Numero Uno. Why did this matter? Well because all these new by-laws were passed while he was for lack of a better word the author at councils behest in Burlington. So the OMB. leader could have his own by-law passed by council by a 4 to 3 margin. Reversed at the OMB. Under his watch. Quite embarrasing? Conflict of interest? I thought so to but life goes on.

    After you reminded me of this appeal it dawned on me. The similarity between what I argued at the Kangaroo Court-OMB. With the a/m recommendations. Issues presented. Similar to these guidelines or recommendation.

    1. Character areas (Nimby hotbeds) be eliminated Province wide.
    2. Speeding up approval process by removing and eliminating overregulation
    3. Eliminating inefficient use of land.
    4. Bring our By-laws to be consistant with surrounding Municipalites.
    5. Bring in By-laws that would encourage 2nd units in homes
    6. Encourage creativity in housing types in the low density areas

    Leslie and Oh yes! your favourite. #7

    The OP. calls for housing to take into consideration, Climate Change. This was a time when the City of Burlington was suffering flooding problems. Now I can’t recall if the OP. draft at the time had this section covered or it may have been my own suggestion (It’s in the OP now).That at a time when water levels of the Great Lakes were uncertain moving into the future. I thought lowering the rooflines at a time when second units were starting to be explored. Would cause new homes to be built closer to the water tables. Clearly new homes were being built with higher basements. Pushing them deeper into the ground. Since then I recall numerous excavations filling up with water the next day. My recommendation that slighly higher rooflines should be allowed in areas proven to have flooding problems. I would like to think this made sense. I am not a big climate change believer, but these issues were being thrown back and forth at the time when Lake water was rising and dropping. Now the OP. say’s it must be considered.

    The higher basements had nothing to do with evironmetalism. It had to do with simply keeping basements high and dry now and into the future. Not to repeat the mistakes homebuilders and councilors made in the past because of Nybism. Some basements in Burlington flood now. Let’s make sure this never happens again. Simple.


    Thanks for reminding me of this decision. I have always wondered why the City opposed letting this appeal run it’s full course. With a close 4 to 3 decision by council and the possible conflict issue. Even to simply show transparency.

    I take great pleasure reading the above recommendations that were similar to my arguments presented to the OMB. in 2017. What is missing from these recommendations is any similarity to the City’s position on that date. Cats are barking and dogs are purring. Our Mayor is talking about affordable housing. Wow!

    • Leslie

      I’m actually glad you brought all this up. Like I said earlier, I do think you’re a smart guy (though for the record, I am a believer in climate change and I choose to trust the experts in the field).

      It turns out we can agree on some things, including the fact that the new basements we’re seeing are too deep (and really, just excessively big overall). In a way, this helps highlight why expansion vs intensification is not a this or that decision. Most Burlingtonians would agree that preserving our greenspace is important. But it’s equally important to understand the challenges caused by the intensification model, including impacts to the water table, increased stormwater runoff/potential for flooding, loss of privacy & enjoyment of homes/yards for existing neighbours, etc. Those areas you characterized as “Nimby hotspots” have had their share of experience with the consequences of overdevelopment, but the fact is just about anyone will get a bit irked when the enjoyment of their home has been permanently altered (maybe check with your neighbours if they’re OK with a mid-rise next to them). There is a reasonable expectation that when you buy in an established neighbourhood, the Province, City or builders won’t strip away the things you value the most about it.

      Lots of layers to this discussion and however this evolves, I think it’s imperative that any new housing considers the 3 R’s: what is Reasonable, Responsible, and Respectful. Maybe there’s even an opportunity for planners, developers and residents to work together on a vision for their community!

  • Leslie

    I had to exercise some restraint in responding to “Alfred” (Albert), so thank you to the others for calling him out. His chastising, condescending tone is over the top sometimes, and while I happen to think he is quite smart in a way, everything he says sounds like it comes from the mouth of a bully. I thought the Gazette wanted to censor this type of commenting?

    The others have already poked holes in his statements so I won’t bother adding to that, but I did have a chuckle at the “wacko environmentalists” comment. I distinctly recall an appeal (the lone appeal) on the Shoreacres Character Study that went to the OMB in 2017. There was a builder who claimed to want to build homes for “climate change protection”. Perhaps Alfred/Albert is familiar. I guess anyone can use the pretence of environmentalism when it serves their own interests!

  • Tom Muir

    Alfred, I have to agree with statements here, that you really sound almost completely delusional in your rants and personal attacks on almost everyone, every time you speak. The rest of the time you dispense disinformation, or half-baked opinions. You don’t put the work in to finish the bake.

    None of this is necessary, but you, as a one-man, one-trick pony and lobby for development, seems to need it.

    Frankly, you sound like the wacko and nimby labels you use, always accusatory raving about things you can’t possibly know about, and provide no evidence that you have a credible clue about what you speak.

    There is no debating or discussing with you with a civil voice. It’s just sarcasm, accusations, attack, and you yield nothing.

    This only tries to disguise your real purpose, which is quite apparent.

    The exchange of comments here shows it well.

  • Alfred

    Bruce Leigh.

    Do you not read the article before you post something? Both the NDP Jessica Bell housing critic and Green party leader house Mike Shreiner critics think the getting rid of exclusionary Zoning is a good thing. Conservatives and Liberal on Board as well. Sorry for your luck.

    You do know that the Mayor upon being elected, fired both the City Manager and the Director of Planning for just doing their job. Contrary to the Mayors wishes.

    • Bruce Leigh


      I am confident those positions (Liberal, NDP, Green) will change once the public feedback is in and we get into election mode.

      You have made yet another unsubstantiated accusation. This time about the Mayor and the former Director of Planning and the former City Manager. Where is your evidence?

      You still have not provided any substantiation to your McDonald accusation.

      Making wild unsubstantiated accusations is not the way to behave..

      May I suggest you consider being constructive by suggesting how you would get affordable and rental housing built. It’s obvious developers have no appetite for it.

      How do you (or any reader here) feel about my suggestion of municipalities building, owning and managing their own rental and affordable housing stock, like Toronto does?

  • Alfred

    Daintry Klein.

    Perryb wisely enlightens us that 500 Thousand immigrants are coming to Canada each year and your response is “Do we need more housing in Canada”? It appears that you are supporting the notion that you want no more construction in Canada period. Where would these people live? In the forest. Like cavemen.

  • Bruce Leigh

    Perry, I rarely agree with you, but this is one of those rare times. I agree with everything you said. I can’t believe I just said that. LOL. Mr Lawrence and those of his ilk are out of touch with regular Ontarians. Living in areas like the Bridlepath or Rosedale is so removed from living in areas like George Street or Rothesay Place here in Burlington.

    Alfred, what are you talking about? What evidence do you have for connecting Ms McDonald’s resignation to this outrageous proposal. What evidence do you have for suggesting the the Mayor or anyone else might have been planning to put pressure on Ms McDonald to ignore the rules as you say? Come on, substantiate those claims. If you cannot or do not you should retract your Fox News fake news.

    As for treating all areas as equal, you are delusional about that. You’re like pretty much 99% of developers, whether highrise, infill or subdivision. You have no regard for the neighbourhood, the people who live there. Profit is your only interest. I bet you would scream blue murder if your home was to be surrounded on all four sides by 4 storey apartment buildings.

    Next steps

    Come June 2nd throw out the Ford government and the PC party. Ignoring what Alfred said, the Liberals &/or NDP will not go for that plan.

    Lobby to have the OLT disbanded and replaced by adjudication by the unbiased courts. That will severely diminish the appealing of valid municipal decisions.

    Expecting the private sector to come up with affordable, rental, low cost, or whatever you want to call it is just plain lunacy. There is not the profit in it to attract developers away from higher priced condos. The Ontario government and its municipalities must realize they can only solve the housing situation by copying the Toronto format – The Toronto Community Housing Corp. Municipalities need to partner with the Province (the financier) to develop, construct and manage their own inventory of low cost and rental housing..

    • Bruce Leigh

      I forgot to mention there is at least one tool available to municipalities they can use to preserve certain neighbourhoods. The tool is to have a specific area designated as an Historic Conservation District.

      From the Province of Ontario’s website:-

      “Which part of the Ontario Heritage Act applies to heritage conservation districts municipally defined areas of distinctive architecture and or landscape?

      (1) in Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act enables the council of a municipality to designate the entire municipality or any defined area or areas of the municipality as a Heritage Conservation District (HCD).”

      This link provides information about designating an area as an Heritage Conservation District.


      This link provides a listing of Ontario municipalities thT have plenty or more Heritage Conservation District. (No mention of Burlington. Oakville is listed)


  • Daintry Klein

    So unfortunate that the Housing Task Force and the development community seem oblivious to the detrimental impact of overdevelopment on climate change. Every housing development should receive increasing scrutiny.

    Do we really need more housing? Or do we need to address the housing bubble and how this prevents affordability of suitable housing for our Canadian demographic?

    Every “hard” new development surface comes with a reduction in greenspace of setbacks, major parks and open space or farmland. Greenspaces allow our urban forest to cool our environment, mitigate flooding and CO2. Some necessities of life!

    Perhaps a note to Minister Clark is worthwhile?

  • perryb

    When I hear that Scotiabank CEO Jake Lawrence is welcoming a 4 story condo next door to his own house, I will be more impressed. Until then, this will just be another entitled elite gathering preaching to lesser people. There needs to be a way to keep on bringing in half a million people into the country every year but spreading them out into our vast smaller town areas instead of concentrating in major urban areas. In turn, this means building a plan to physically decentralize our economy. To some extent, people are already voting with their feet if they can. Killing off the evil OLT will also be a good start, since it is the focus of enabling the present vertical sprawl, which is the preferred approach of greedy developers.

  • Alfred

    Thanks Pepper.

    For keeping us informed.

    I would like to thank the Wacko environmentalists for facilitating this. In one swoop you have made the City Mayor and some councilors and Nymby’s completely irrelevant. Some of us knew about this report some time ago. Question is, did the Planning Director Heather McDonald
    resign as a result of the new rules coming down the road. Or did she find working for this Mayor would cause her a conflict with her obligation to the new rules the Province is mandating. Perhaps someone asking her to ignore the new rules.

    This woman is way to honest to play this game.

    It appears that all four Provincial Parties are on board with the zoning changes and reducing Construction barriers, Approval requirements and disallow public consultation.

    It appears they consider. The Mayor and Nimby’s nothing but time and money wasting nuisances with nothing to contribute as they demonstrate their lack of knowledge of the building process in Ontario.

    This new process will consider all neighborhoods equal in Ontario. they would tear down the “Character areas” who through political influence were able to elevate these areas to special status. No development zones. Areas like Roseland , Shoreacres. I refer to them as the Nimby hotspots. While selfishly pushing development into your neighbourhoods.

    These creative forms of housing will soon be happening across Canada.

    It’s the way of the world.