Who We Are > News > Ontario Planning Policy Changes: What you need to know

Ontario Planning Policy Changes: What you need to know

Those trying to follow the myriad of provincial planning policy changes over the past two years may have experienced a case of whiplash. We have had Bill 108, Bill 138, and now Bill 197, all of which proposed substantial changes to the way planning and development processes unfold in every municipality across the Province – with a ripple effect on countless policy documents.

Rightfully, anyone involved in planning and development is struggling to keep on top of this ever-changing planning policy framework. Many practitioners are eager to understand which policies to apply, when new policies come in effect and the complex rules of transition, not to mention what the policies even mean. Municipal planners focused on policy development have had to be nimble, reviewing implications and adjusting approaches on the fly. Developers and landowners are scrambling to understand the implications of these policy changes for their landholdings.

Questions that we’ve heard from our Greater Toronto Area public sector clients include:

  • How should we undertake our Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) process?
  • What growth projections, targets and methodologies should municipalities and regions be using?
  • How does one prepare a Community Benefits Contribution Strategy report for the entire community, and how does this relate to development charges and parkland requirements? Do we even need a CBC Strategy?
  • How do we go about introducing a Protected Major Transit Station Area (PMTSA), and how is it different from an MTSA?
  • Can we require Inclusionary Zoning, and can we meet the PMTSA requirements?
  • Is Inclusionary Zoning financially viable in our communities?

Questions from our private sector clients are typically more project-specific:

  • Should we continue advancing Section 37 negotiations or wait until Community Benefits Charge kicks in?
  • Am I in a PMTSA and when will Inclusionary Zoning apply to my site?
  • What are the pros and cons of submitting a Planning Application now versus delaying until the new policies are in effect?
  • How long with the MCR process take for employment conversions, and what does my application need to include?
  • What’s up with these new submission requirements in the City of Toronto?

Over the next short while, we will be shedding some light on the most recent policy changes. This blog post is the first in a series of five  covering Municipal Comprehensive Reviews and Conversion Requests; Protected Major Transit Station Areas and Inclusionary Zoning; Community Benefits Charges; and the City of Toronto’s new Official Plan Policies on Built Form and the Public Realm.

Blog Post 1 – The MCR Process and Conversion Requests: Municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe are undertaking their MCR process to bring their official plans into conformity with the updated Growth Plan policies before July 1, 2022. A key component of the MCR process is the consideration for employment land conversions. In the City of Toronto, landowners can submit conversion requests up until August 3, 2021. The upcoming blog post will focus on the City of Toronto’s conversion process. It will explore the tests and criteria which the City will be relying upon to evaluate conversion requests. Read this article.

Blog Post 2 – Community Benefits Charges: While the CBC regime proposed under Bill 108 was a significant departure from the current system, Bill 197 has reined in some of the more substantive policy shifts. The CBC now resembles the more familiar Section 37 process used to date, albeit with a greater degree of transparency and certainty. The charge will be tied to approved land values as determined prior to the issuance of a building permit, capped at up to 4% of the appraised land value. Municipalities have until September 18, 2022, to approve a CBC by-law and transition away from the current Section 37 regime. The upcoming blog post will discuss the types of development that will and will not be subject to the CBC, and discuss other considerations for planners, developers and practitioners. Read this article.

Blog Post 3 – PMTSAs and Inclusionary Zoning: While PMTSAs haven’t garnered much attention in the media, they could have significant implications for developers with landholdings within future PMTSAs. There are approximately 180 MTSAs in the City of Toronto alone that will be delineated and have minimum density targets set through the City’s MCR. PMTSAs will form a subset of all MTSAs. However, they can be brought forward for approval prior to the completion of the MCR process, with policies regarding minimum densities for buildings and structures and authorized permitted uses of land. One of the most impactful changes is that the PMTSA policies, once approved by the Minister, cannot be appealed by anyone – including Municipalities, the public or landowners. The other significant change is the introduction of Inclusionary Zoning within PMTSAs, which would require affordable housing to be delivered as part of development. While many planners, municipalities and community groups are interested in seeing this long-awaited policy come into force, Inclusionary Zoning policies have garnered a lot of attention and concern throughout the development industry. Read this article.

Blog Post 4 – OPA 479 (Public Realm) and 480 (Built Form): The final blog will zoom into the City of Toronto, where two updates to the Official Plan have recently come into effect. Development proposals and accompanying Planning Rationale Reports must now address these new public realm and built form policies. At a high level, the new policies require that a Block Context Plan and Soil Volume Plan be prepared as part of a Complete Application. The OPA policies themselves will require a more nuanced approach to the design of the public realm and the built form. The upcoming blog post will highlight critical policies changes and how to address the new requirements in a planning application. Read this article.

Urban Strategies has a strong understanding of planning policy and the planning approvals process.  We would be pleased to explore any questions about land use planning and what these policy changes mean for you. Please get in touch with Ben Hoff with any inquiries.

By Inger Squires and Antonio (Tony) DeFranco