Property Biz Canada

Should the Ontario Municipal Board be overhauled?


In Toronto, people regularly complain they can’t find an affordable place to buy or rent, but they also complain the city is overrun by condominiums and developers have run amok, filling the skyline with glass towers.

Ben MyersHave they ever considered what affordability would be like if the real estate industry hadn’t delivered so many new housing units, or where would pricing be without these ubiquitous glass boxes?

Part of the complaint about the building boom is that high-rise apartments are too tall, cast shadows on low-rise residential neighbourhoods, create privacy concerns for neighbours, and lead to growth that cannot be supported in these areas.

This perceived overbuilding, or overdevelopment problem, has been exacerbated by the so-called “developer-friendly” Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The independent adjudicative tribunal conducts hearings and makes decisions on matters that have been appealed under specific provincial legislation.

The majority of appeals occur under the Planning Act for planning instruments, such as official plans, zoning bylaws, subdivision plans, consents and minor variances.

Perceptions about Ontario Municipal Board

Data on OMB decisions and whether the developer and/or landowner received a favourable result versus the municipality is not comprehensive; the perception is developers “win” more cases than they lose. However, many developers will only “go to the board” if they feel they have a good chance of winning.

There is also concern the “threat of the OMB” has forced municipalities to compromise in striking deals with applicants. The provincial government has heard the complaints and felt compelled to make changes to the system.

In May, the Ontario government tabled Bill 139, which is intended to significantly overhaul the manner in which local planning decisions are reviewed, placing greater authority in the hands of elected municipal councils and local planning authorities. The proposal calls for the OMB to be replaced by a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The Bill had its second reading in September.

Market Manuscript Report survey

For the latest Market Manuscript Report by Fortress Real Developments, a survey was conducted of urban planners in Southwestern Ontario, and 37 per cent of respondents thought the OMB needed to be overhauled. However, 69 per cent of municipal planners felt it should be overhauled, but only 26 per cent of private planners think it should.

The planning questionnaire also asked what impact the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal would have on housing supply and 48 per cent of respondents felt it was too early to tell. Only two per cent of respondents felt it would increase supply, but 40 per cent felt it would reduce supply moving forward.

When asked for additional written commentary on the OMB changes, professional planners were more than willing to offer their opinions. The most frequently expressed belief is good planning should not be influenced by politics, and if greater planning power is placed in the hands of councilors, they have really placed the power with local ratepayers and organized NIMBY groups that don’t want change.

Housing a growing population

Setting aside the gaudy real estate prices in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, the bottom line is Ontario has seen decade-high population growth over the past year, and with vacancies at near zero in many municipalities, the only way to accommodate new residents is by building new housing of all types and prices ranges.

If those homes are not built in your backyard, then where?

To read further on urban planner’s opinions on the OMB and the economics of land-use planning, download the Fall 2017 Market Manuscript here:

https://fortressrealdevelopments.com/news/mm8-fortress-fall2017/

Fortress Real Developments is a diversified real estate development and investment company that partners with established builders and developers across the country. Ben assists in evaluating both the market conditions and projects that Fortress takes on. Follow his blog posts and commentary on the Canadian Housing Market at www.fortressrealdevelopments.com/news or follow him on twitter at @BenMyers29

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Ben Myers

About the Author ()

Ben Myers has over a decade of real estate research experience with several firms in both the United States and Canada including Hanley Wood Market Intelligence in Dallas and Altus Clayton in Toronto. Most recently Ben was Editor and Executive Vice President of Urbanation, a condominium apartment market research firm. Ben’s clients, and subscribers to Urbanation’s quarterly report included Toronto’s top high-rise developers, Canadian schedule A and B banks and secondary lenders, mortgage insurers, municipalities, planners, new home brokerages, appraisers, and suppliers. Ben was widely viewed as the voice of the condominium market in Toronto and made television appearances on CTV, Global, City TV and Rogers TV, as well as being quoted regularly in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and several magazines including Toronto Life, Canadian Business, New Homes and Condos, Homebuilder Magazine and others. Ben has also contributed data to articles and blogs by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Buzz Buzz Home, and New in Homes. Ben has been the keynote speaker for events held by BILD, OHBA, Toronto Construction Association, The Property Show, Canadian Apartment Investment Conference and many more. Ben’s expertise includes residential market studies, condominium apartment feasibility studies, letters of opinion on development scenarios, due diligence reports for high-rise land purchases, focus groups, consumer surveys, data mining and statistical manipulation of real estate related data, macro level economic and housing analysis, and rental demand studies. Ben has also done OMB prep work and assisted with municipal and regional studies on urban boundary expansion, housing incentive programs, and long term residential dwelling forecasts. Ben has a degree in economics from the University of Texas at Arlington and has taken additional courses in urban land economics from the University of British Columbia.

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