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Ontario’s Growth Plan Changes: The End of Smart Growth?




2019 is off to an eventful — if inauspicious — start in Ontario politics. With new year barely three weeks old, the Doug Ford government has announced a range of cost-cutting and deregulatory reforms that alter the shape of Ontario’s social and environmental safety net. In stripping away tuition grants for low-income students, dissolving the oversight provided by regional health agencies, loosening childcare rules, and even reviewing the Endangered Species Act for “efficiencies,” the Progressive Conservative government is leaving little on the table. Most everything, it seems, is now “open for business,” including land use policy. Last week, the Ford government’s vision for urban development continued to coalesce through newly proposed amendments to the 2017 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2018, Doug FordAs the Growth Plan is updated, what does it mean for the future of the Toronto region? Photo by Jack Landau.

Alongside the Ford government’s bombshell 2018 announcements to scrap the carbon tax, reverse the sex ed curriculum, halve the size of Toronto’s City Council, upload the TTC subway, and compromise the Greenbelt through Bill 66’s “open for business” zoning, the new Growth Plan amendments are comparatively subtle. Tabled last week, the Growth Plan changes aim to bring new housing supply to the market — in part through looser density requirements for new greenfield development.

For many of the region’s outer municipalities, density targets for new development have been halved. Under the existing Growth Plan (which was first enacted as a complement to Greenbelt legislation in 2005, and tightened in 2017), new development was required to create a minimum of 80 jobs or residents per hectare. For Brant, Dufferin, Haldimand, Northumberland, Simcoe, and Wellington counties, that target has been reduced to 40.

More urbanized parts of the Golden Horseshoe — including Hamilton, Peel region, Waterloo and York — will now have a minimum intensification target of 60 per cent, while developers in communities like Barrie, Guelph, Orillia and Peterborough will be required to provide 50 jobs or residents per hectare. Additionally, some small parcels of land outside of current municipal Growth Plan boundaries (including some farmland) would become open to development, further diluting the previous Liberal governments’ gradual push for density.

Rules regulating development in the region’s ‘Employment Lands’ are also subject to revision. Under the new regulations, municipalities will be able to use portions of their Employment Lands to build housing, although other Provincially designated areas will continue to remain protected for employment uses. 

Critics of the revised Growth Plan have been quick to argue that the new regulations stymie the region’s ongoing efforts to create more functional and environmentally sensible urban environments. In a recent statement, Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, assessed that the changes are “favouring sprawl” over density. Together with Bill 66, Gray stresses that the new policies spell “an end to provincial rules that support smartly planned, transit friendly communities, and the protection of farmland, natural heritage areas, and clean water,” said Gray. 

Victor Doyle, a retired urban planner who helped lead the creation of the Greenbelt, was similarly unsparing in his criticism of the new Growth Plan, which he warned constitutes “a big step back” for the region. As reported by the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Gray, Doyle argues that “the new targets, when implemented, will see densities as low as those built in the 1990s, long before the Growth Plan.”

According to the government, the updated density targets will help spur more construction, bringing greater housing supply to the market and ultimately easing pressure on home prices. “We believe there are too many barriers standing in the way of creating housing and attracting investment in the region,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a statement outlining the updated growth plan. More acutely, Clark argues that the tiered density targets acknowledge that “one size does not fit all.” 

Still, if the goal is to unlock the region’s limited land to provide new housing, allowing low-density development that brings fewer homes to the market seems counterproductive in the long term. At best, the new regulations could spur supply gains in the short term, but at the expense of valuable land lost to suburban sprawl. By contrast, the previous target of 80 jobs or residents per hectare reflected a more urban and transit-oriented ethos.

The benchmark of 80 inhabitants per hectare was designed to ensure a level of density that could support 10-to-15-minute bus service, hopefully alleviating the Golden Horseshoe’s inefficient and environmental destructive dependance on the car. No longer. Compared to the ‘gentle density’ championed under the previous Growth Plan, the sprawl facilitated by newly loosened regulations has similarly negative environmental impacts, both in its up-front carbon costs, and in the automobile-dependant lifestyles that it all but imposes.  

Yet, if the “open for business” ethos means creating an easier path for developers, more sprawl in outlying municipalities is met by more density closer to urban centres. Alongside the changes to greenfield density targets, the updated Growth Plan allows for more density around existing transit centres. New regulations more than double the maximum scope of ‘Major Transit Areas’ where density is encouraged: the previous radius of 500 metres is expanded to 800 metres (which is identified as roughly equivalent to a 10-minute walk). Bringing density to transit hubs — like TTC subway stops — will hopefully become easier. 

Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2018, Doug FordThe updated Growth Plan encourages density in transit-rich areas, along with suburban sprawl. Photo by Marcus Mitanis

Facilitating transit-oriented development around existing infrastructure, the new regulations also reverse rules that allowed cities to insulate some transit-rich areas from development while intensifying construction elsewhere to meet overall density goals. Now, cities — including Toronto — will be pushed to spread density more evenly. This could help correct a skewed model of development that pushes extreme spikes of density into small pockets of the city, while much of the Toronto ‘yellowbelt’ of single-family homes loses population. Finally, the revised Growth Plan also closes a bizarre linguistic loophole that allowed any new development in rural areas — including single-family McMansion sprawl — to be considered ‘intensification.’  

So how do we weigh the impacts of greater density within transit centres against the facilitation of outlying sprawl? The equation is further complicated when we consider that the Growth Plan’s 80-per-hectare greenfield density targets weren’t being met to begin with – and didn’t need to be. As TVO’s John Michael McGrath explains, the opt-outs facilitated by the previous Growth Plan jeopardized density targets long before any recent changes:

Municipalities were always permitted to apply for “alternative targets” if they didn’t think they could meet the 80-jobs-or-people number, and the government says that’s exactly what they did: not one of the outer-ring municipalities was close to meeting its target through new greenfield development.

Reversing protections for Employment Lands may prove to have similarly limited impacts. The 2017 land use regulations protecting Employment Lands were due for review in 2022, at which point municipalities could choose to build housing on industrial areas. For some municipalities, that change now merely comes three years sooner.

Although municipalities were always able to opt out of greenfield density targets, it doesn’t invalidate the validity of those targets to begin with. In environmental terms, the weakness of the Liberals’ 2017 Growth Plan was not its ambition, but its lack thereof. Retrospectively, was the 2017 push for transit-oriented density and environmental stewardship rooted in creating good optics with the Liberal base? Maybe, but it would have made good policy too.

If the embrace of sprawl merely hastens the collapse of a system designed with opt-outs to begin with, and the new transit centre regulations help create more urban density, are the Growth Plan changes cause for optimism? Probably not.  

Facilitating greater urban density around transit centres is a good thing; transit-oriented density is environmentally and socio-economically preferable to sprawl. But the policy is couched within an ethos of deregulation that fundamentally works against our ability to create an environmentally sustainable — and logistically efficient — urban region. The “open for business” mentality that guides the Doug Ford government’s policies is rooted in dangerously short-term thinking.

While suburban sprawl and urban density are diametrically opposed in their geography, they also fall under the same free-market ethos. In both cases, the government is doing away with regulation to allow developers to operate with greater freedom. We should celebrate the promotion of transit-oriented urban density, but it’s important to remember that it comes primarily as a by-product of “cutting red tape,” rather than a policy goal in its own right. 

This type of deregulation is not inherently good or bad. Regulations can protect the environment and create better communities (think the Greenbelt and Growth Plan), and they can entrench privilege and exclusion (think Toronto’s single-family zoning). The trouble is that Ford’s “open for business” ethos seems predicated on the notion that regulations are *inherently* bad. 

While Bill 66 allows municipalities to bypass environmental regulations — including the Greenbelt Act – to attract new employment and industrial development, the updated Growth Plan makes similar concessions to businesses and commercial interests. Sometimes, those concessions can lead to good outcomes. As a blanket political ethos, however, Doug Ford’s wave of deregulation cedes the government’s responsibility to manage land use and environmental policy, leaving it in the hands of businesses.

Couched alongside the Growth Plan’s policy changes, new environmental language signals a subtle, but potentially meaningful shift in the government’s approach to land use and environmental stewardship. Concrete goals of “low-carbon” communities and “net-zero” building are replaced with the more nebulous benchmark of “environmentally sustainable,” while “lower density development” is replaced with “unmanaged growth.” 

In the messy prelude to the 2018 Provincial election, Doug Ford mused about abolishing part of the Greenbelt — a move that drew pointed criticism from across the political spectrum. The Premier-to-be quickly walked back such claims, but his government has consistently set about finding ways to achieve similar goals without the same political repercussions. It means bypassing the Greenbelt without really bypassing it, and embracing sprawl while feigning otherwise. The lesson, then, is that the government rules by more than the buck-a-beer force of Fordian edict. Ontario is also changing through a quieter — but no less troubling — shifting of the goalposts. 


The government’s proposed Growth Plan changes are open for a 45-day period of review, during which Ontarians can share their thoughts about the new plan. The deadline for feedback is February 28

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Real Estate

Canadian Homeowners: Meet the Costs of Window Replacement Projects





Various factors could lead you to consider replacing your windows. However, there are multiple factors to think of that would affect the costs of this project. On average, a window replacement project could cost anywhere from $500 to upwards of $2000. The price is significantly affected by factors such as the design, materials used, and how energy efficient you would like your windows to be.

There are various types of windows to choose from. Understandably, the costs to replace your current window would depend on the kind of window you would like to replace it with.

It is essential to keep in mind that although there are different designs when it comes to windows, you need to take into account the functionality as well. Several types of windows may look suitable for your home but are actually not right for what you need.

Unless you are more concerned with the aesthetic of a window, you should understand what the different types of windows are best used for. To properly understand what makes each window type different, you should be familiar with the term sashes.

Simply put, window sashes are the part that holds the window in place. Depending on the type of window you get, the sash may allow for manoeuvrability or may simply be there to keep your window on the wall.

Moving on, there are several types of windows to choose from. This may all look confusing at first, and you may be tempted to select the best looking one, but you have to put into consideration the functionality of the window.

Unless you’re okay with having a poorly ventilated home or one that is continuously cold because of your window, thorough research and consideration should go into the choosing process.

The thing to remember is that you have to take the process one step at a time. You might feel overwhelmed and indeed, being overwhelmed is not something that will benefit you at all.

So what should you do now? The first stride you need to take when considering a window replacement project is to choose the replacement window. There are various types to choose from. However, it would do you good to consider the six most in-demand window styles first.

Double-hung windows are perhaps the most common choice. The benefits extend to it being easily operable and quick to clean. It operates using two sashes. Both sashes are manoeuvrable and provide you with a top or bottom opening at your choosing.

Single-hung windows are slightly different. Although they operate on generally the same principle, the most significant difference is that one of the sashes is stationary and cannot be moved. One of the sashes usually located at the top is fixed and cannot be moved while the bottom sash can be manoeuvred either upward or downward to allow for air. The benefit of a single-hung window is its ability to decrease the chances of air infiltrating your home. This ultimately means that single-hung windows are incredibly energy efficient.

Casement windows are the optimal choice if you’re looking for ventilation. It operates using one sash and is manoeuvrable through a crank that allows you to swing it open in one direction—usually outward. In addition to its superior ventilation properties, you are also able to enjoy a full and unobstructed view of your surroundings.

Slider windows are perfect if you’re looking for something that requires little to no effort to manoeuvre. Due to its aesthetic and design properties, slider windows are great additions if you would like to have plenty of natural light in the room. It operates using two sashes that allow you to manoeuvre it horizontally, mostly sliding the window from side to side.

Bay windows are an ideal design choice if you would like something that not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also allows for excellent ventilation and natural light. Bay windows are certainly aesthetically pleasing. However, they are also perfect for larger rooms where you would like to bring in a certain amount of outdoor life.

Awnings are generally recommended for areas with damp weather. The easiest way to describe it would be to imagine a casement window that has a top opening instead of side openings. This type of window is perfect if you are looking to add a modern and chic feel to your home.

Now that you have selected the type of window you would like to put into your home, it is time to consider what material to use. There are various options ranging from vinyl to aluminum. Understandably, the costs will vary depending on the type of material you choose.

The best thing to do to ensure that you are making the right choice is to contact a professional in window replacement. The right professional will have all the answers to your replacement windows FAQ.

Contacting an expert not only ensures you make the right choices for your home, but it also guarantees that your window will be installed appropriately and as quickly as possible.

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Real Estate

Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation





If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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Real Estate

7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips





The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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