‘This math is so bad. It’s not even remotely realistic,’ mayor says of Bill 23 target of 12,000 new homes for Newmarket

York Region is criticizing the province over a series of housing policy proposals that council members say miss the mark.

Council passed a resolution Nov. 10 asking the province to suspend Bill 23, known as the More Homes Built Faster Act, to allow for greater consultation with municipalities. The bill imposes a series of policy proposals aimed at accelerating construction, including eliminating development charges on certain types of development, freezing conservation authority fees and setting housing for municipalities.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said municipalities needed more time to respond and the bill had several problematic elements.

“The implications are so huge,” he said. “We need to mobilize quickly as a municipality. … We have to take a very strong position.

The province has put a 30-day comment period on the bill, which the Association of Municipalities of Ontario is pushing to extend. At the same time, the the province separately introduced changes to add settlements to the Greenbeltincluding in York Region, which is not accounted for in the region’s new official plan.

Bill 23 sets housing targets for area municipalities, including a target of 12,000 new homes for Newmarket by 2031. But Taylor said the city only has sewer capacity for around 2,000 more homes, and that it will take at least six years to fix this with a new sewage treatment plant extension.

“This math is so bad. It’s not even remotely realistic,” Taylor said.

The financial implications of the bill have also troubled municipalities, with councilors expressing concern about where the lost dollars will come from. The bill proposes to reduce development charges on rental units and eliminate them from affordable units.

CAO Bruce Macgregor said this represents a reduction of around 10% in royalties collected, which has implications for the expansion of service to new builds.

“We need answers from the provincial government as to where these dollars are coming from,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “If we don’t have them, we can’t advance the infrastructure, and the very houses they want to build won’t get built.”

But Vaughan Regional Councilor Gino Rosati said they needed to be constructive. He said something had to be done to fix the housing problem, and although he said it was not acceptable for taxpayers to make up for lost money, the bill should not start from zero.

“It’s not going to fly, and I think it puts us in a position where we don’t want to play ball,” he said. “The government has done a lot of work. We’ve done a lot of work… Let’s fix what’s on offer.”

The Greenbelt proposal also angered Taylor. Putting aside the question of its openness to development, he said proposed settlements there are coming with no strings attached, when the province should have mandated at least a certain amount of new housing to go there, at least 25 per cent. cent, be affordable.

It’s “a complete abdication of leadership,” Taylor said. “The leverage was there and it wasn’t used.”

Taylor added that a strong message is essential and that the region must push for this now, lest it be too late and Bill 23 pass.

Macgregor responded that many municipalities across the province are also upset with Bill 23 and would likely coordinate to oppose it.

“Right now that means fewer parks, higher property taxes, fewer environmental protections,” Taylor said. “We can solve this problem, we can work with them. We need to get a message across quickly.