Proposed changes to Development Charges Act and Planning Act

Bill 108 More Homes, More Choices Act – introduced in the legislature May 2, 2019 makes amendments to both the Development Charges Act and Section 37 of the Planning Act. The bill is currently proceeding to Third Reading. The net effect of these changes is to more specifically prescribe what municipalities are allowed to collect these for from developers and more predictability about the amounts. This has a potential significant impact on public libraries:

1 – Development Charges Act – among the changes made is adding to the list of things that municipalities “may impose development charges to pay for increased capital costs required because of increased needs only for the following services”. This specifies a list of eligible items whereas the previous act was silent and left this up to the municipality for interpretation. We are advised by our government relations firm that while the revised Act is more prescriptive, it is not clear whether the “other services as prescribed” item on the list, could include capital costs for libraries, and whether newly opened libraries will be eligible for funding under this new model. However, further discussion with Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing staff indicate that the intention of Bill 108 is for soft services – such as public library capital costs – are to no longer be collected through development charges but under a new Community Benefits Charge set out in the bill. We are still awaiting clarification on the language in the Bill that mandates this change. We are informed that development charges collected to date for public libraries are not supposed to be retroactively redistributed, and this would only apply from the go-forward of date of the Bill becoming law.

2 – Community Benefits Charge (change to Section 37 under the Planning Act). Under the current Section 37, municipal councils (mostly in Toronto and the inner GTA for practical purposes) have wide latitude to determine the amounts of money collected under Section 37 (funds for density bonusing – permitting developers to exceed zoning limits in exchange for offsetting compensation) and how these are spent. We are advised by our government relations firm that the proposed structure is no longer linked to density bonusing and is effectively prejudiced in favour of community-wide facilities like public libraries, community centres, daycare centres. Municipalities will be required to create a Municipal Community Benefits Strategy, over which they will have significant autonomy to set out priorities for how funds will be used, but a cap will be set on the amount of money (per capita) that can be collected through this charge. The specifics of this cap will likely be defined in regulation (and per the legislation, will align with a set percentage of the value of the land), and has yet to be determined by the province – but any cap presents a risk of a smaller pool of available funds for public libraries.

We continue to pursue more information on the specific implications of the proposed legislation and the impact of this new approach on public libraries. In particular we are seeking expertise from within our membership to help further inform our response to government in helping to shape any regulations and ensure that they provide the greatest flexibility possible with the aim of ensuring that public libraries see little to no net loss from the shift to this new model.