Triplexes are coming to your neighborhood, says the province

New provincial legislation aimed at rapidly increasing housing supply in Ontario will allow triplexes to be built on virtually all residential properties in Ottawa, potentially changing the character of some older neighborhoods.

The More Homes Built Faster Act introduced Tuesday at Queen’s Park calls for sweeping changes to planning rules across Ontario, including an end to exclusionary single-family zoning, which means allowing up to three residential units on a single residential property anywhere in the city.

“We’re past the NIMBY stage, we’re not in ‘Not in My Backyard’ anymore,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said.

“We’re at the point of BANANA, where it’s about ‘Building absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone’. We can’t keep doing the same things. We have to stop doing the things that aren’t working and start making the changes Ontarians need.

WATCH | The Minister announces the changes:

Ontario Housing Minister Announces Proposed Sweeping New Changes to Home Building Rules

There is ‘no silver bullet’ to deal with the province’s housing crisis, but Housing Minister Steve Clark said on Tuesday the government has a long-term plan to get more homes built as long as other governments would buy.

The exact details of these changes are something city staff and council members are still trying to figure out. The bill includes setting a target of new homes for cities – Ottawa’s is 151,000 by 2031 – and waiving a number of fees the municipality charges developers.

But one thing is clear: the province will allow up to three units on a single residential property, regardless of what individual municipal rules state.

Ottawa already allows homeowners to add a small apartment or shed to their home, but this raises the bar for densification.

The new rules mean that, without having to apply for a costly or time-consuming zoning change, a landlord would be allowed to add two apartments to their existing home, or a landlord could construct a new building containing three separate units.

Changing character of old neighborhoods

This will be a change for neighborhoods that currently only allow one detached single-family home on a lot, which is the case for a number of older communities in places like Orleans, Kanata South and Alta Vista.

Exclusionary zoning also applies to individual streets scattered throughout the city.

“I completely agree that Ottawa needs more housing,” the councilman said. Laura Dudas, who was re-elected this week in the new Orléans West-lnnes district.

“However, I believe it is paramount that we always respect [the] existing character of our neighbourhoods, particularly our long-established neighbourhoods, of which much of Ottawa is comprised.

It is essential that we always respect [the] existing character of our neighborhoods.– Advice. Laura Dudas

She said she’s concerned that streets in some older neighborhoods are too narrow to accommodate more density, which will cause problems around where residents pile up snow in the winter or park their cars if it’s there are no spaces provided in multi-unit residences.

She also worries that there appears to be little plan – or money – in provincial rules to provide additional infrastructure and amenities like parks.

She told CBC that it’s not necessarily that communities don’t want more density, but that they want it done right.

“It needs to be more surgical. It needs to be more thoughtful. It can’t just be carte blanche, let’s step it all up.”

Like many city officials, Dudas is still absorbing the details of the province’s vast housing bill. She fears, among other things, that it will destroy the character of many older parts of the city. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

She’s also concerned about the province’s plan to not allow any councilors or communities to participate in the site plan process — the final stage of an application — for developments under 10 units.

“At the end of the day, the province has a set goal, it has a program and good or bad, it will not be based on the characteristics of a community. [or] history,” Dudas said.

“It’s going to be mandated based on this legislation, which I don’t think is the right way to go. There’s an element of community consultation and input that is absolutely essential.”

Timing of new bill seems political

That the province announced the details of its new housing legislation the day after the municipal election was probably no coincidence.

“I have to imagine that the provincial government was looking to not make this an election issue and see a number of people elected to municipal councils in Ontario who would oppose these measures,” said the MP for Kitchissippi. Jeff Leiper, whose neighborhood has seen more intensification than any other in the city.

During the election campaign, a number of candidates, including mayor-elect Mark Sutcliffe, said they were against removing exclusive zoning for single-family homes.

Now the province is taking that decision out of the hands of council.

A man in a purple shirt talks to a reporter on a sunny day.
Sutcliffe said during the campaign that he was not in favor of removing zoning that protects single-family homes. The day after the election, the province introduced legislation to do just that. (Mateo Garcia-Tremblay/CBC)

Sutcliffe said CBC Ottawa News at 6 a.m. host Omar Debaghi-Pacheco that he is still considering the new legislation, which appears to have blindsided the city’s newly elected officials who were mostly focused on collecting their campaign signs on Tuesday, without delving into any legislation complex.

(It should also be noted that the province’s housing target for Ottawa over the next decade is 50% higher than Sutcliffe’s, which promised to build 100,000 new homes in 10 years. The province did not specify what, if any, consequences a city would face if it does not meet its new home threshold.)

How are we going to allow three units on a lot while presumably leaving room for trees?– Advice. Jeff Leiper

Leiper has long acknowledged that zoning for single-family homes is on the way out, but worries that the province’s plans don’t account for the extra roads, pipes and services that will be needed with the added density.

And he says it’s unclear exactly what role the city council will play in the development process, given the new housing bill.

“How are we going to allow three units on a piece of land while presumably preserving room for trees? Leiper asked.

“How are we going to allow three units on one lot while still providing private amenity space? There are a lot of question marks, but at this point in analyzing everyone today, I think cities are going to look different in parts of town that have looked the same for a very long time.”

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