Ontario looks to modernize construction sector with Bill 185

Toronto, ON — Ontario looks to adopt a new bill that would streamline innovative construction methods, such as mass timber, and speed up the building of more homes.

Bill 185, referred to as “Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, 2024,” is currently sitting at the second reading and will still need to pass the third reading before receiving royal assent.

As part of the bill, Ontario will be releasing the next edition of Ontario’s Building Code with a focus on increasing housing supply, supporting public safety, and innovations, according to the province. This includes increasing harmonization with the National Construction Codes.

Once the new code launches, the province reports intentions to increase the use of advanced wood construction like mass timber and consult with fire-safety stakeholders on single-exit stairs in small residential buildings, as well as, improved safety measures for building residents and firefights.

A new guide is set to be created under Bill 185, which would identify pathways for innovative product approvals, reports the provincial government. The Building Materials Evaluation Commission handbook will be updated to include a pre-submission protocol for applicants.

The Ontario government is looking at building more student housing. The proposed legislation would exempt publicly assisted universities from the Planning Act to accelerate new student housing.

According to the provincial government, the Planning Act is provincial legislation that sets out the ground rules for land use planning. It described how land uses may be controlled and who may control them.

This exemption means universities would be treated similarly to publicly assisted colleges, which are not subject to the Planning Act.

In addition, the province is proposing to create a new “use it or lose it” process to enhance and expand a municipality’s ability to address this obstacle. If passed, this means that municipalities can adopt policies setting out how water and wastewater servicing may be allocated and reallocated so that developments ready to proceed encounter fewer barriers and delays before construction.

Additionally, the Ontario government is exploring new options for ways to expedite the approval process for community service facilities, starting with kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, and potentially extending in phases to long-term care and hospitals.

Ontario is also proposing to enable municipalities to give notice of new planning applications on municipal websites where there is no local newspaper so that the public can be informed about proposed changes.

“These proposed measures would get more homes built faster by ending needless delays and cutting red tape to get shovels in the ground sooner,” reports Rob Flack, associate minister of housing. “Embracing innovative factory-made housing solutions like modular homes and mass timber will accelerate homebuilding, improve housing affordability for Ontario families, and support home-grown industries that provide quality jobs for Ontarians.”

At the same time, Ontario is proposing a change to the Planning Act, which would streamline certain third-party appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

The proposed changes would also allow proponents to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal when a municipality refuses an application or doesn’t make a decision on a settlement boundary change outside the Greenbelt area.

Eliminating parking minimums

The Ontario government is looking to remove requirements to have a minimum amount of parking spaces for developments in areas near major transit stations. This would apply to lands, buildings, or structures located near subways, rails, or bus stations in higher-density areas.

There might be additional changes coming to the Planning Act, which, if passed, would make it easier to create additional residential units, such as garden, laneway, or basement suites.

Development-related charges on housing could be eliminated under the proposed legislation. The five-year phase-in of development charge rates would be removed. This would apply to development charge by-laws passed on and after Jan. 1, 2022.