Housing bill could have 'dramatic' impact on city finances, says Sutcliffe

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is calling for the province to extend consultation on the controversial Bill 23 and says the bill, in its current form, could have a major impact on the city's finances. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is calling for the province to extend consultation on the controversial Bill 23 and says the bill, in its current form, could have a major impact on the city's finances. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ottawa's mayor is urging the province to consider the "dramatic financial implications" a controversial new housing bill could have on the city's coffers, and to give people more time to weigh in on it.

In a letter sent Friday to Steve Clark, Ontario's minister of municipal affairs and housing, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe says Bill 23 could create a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars over the next decade or so.

Known as the More Homes Built Faster Act, Bill 23 is the province's attempt to significantly boost Ontario's housing stock. The Progressive Conservative government has promised to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years, including 151,000 in Ottawa alone.

The province is proposing to freeze, reduce and exempt fees associated with new home construction as an incentive to get people building. Affordable housing, non-profit housing and inclusionary zoning units — meaning affordable housing in new developments — as well as some "attainable" units would be exempt from various charges.

In his letter, Sutcliffe says a new analysis by the city's treasurer suggests, among other things, that the municipal budget would face a loss of roughly $130 million in development charges over the bill's five-year phase-in period.

That would lead to an "infrastructure funding gap," wrote Sutcliffe in the letter, sent three days after Sutcliffe and Clark met face-to-face at Queen's Park.

Toronto has already expressed dissent

"Given this new information, I want to encourage you again, as I did on Tuesday, to extend the consultation period before the legislation is passed, and to consider the dramatic financial implications on the City of Ottawa of the changes before proceeding with the bill," Sutcliffe wrote.

Sutcliffe also said that while he shared the province's goal of building more homes, certain aspects of the bill could be improved, particularly around protecting the environment and preserving historic properties.

While Bill 23 has not yet come up for discussion at Ottawa city council, Toronto's council has already voted to ask the province to press pause until the end of January 2023.

Rallies against the bill are slated to take place Saturday in several dozen communities across Ontario.

Read Mayor Sutcliffe's letter below: