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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Editorial: A suite approach to housing affordability
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

The times they are a-changin’.

The famous vagabond poet from Hibbing, Minn., wrote those words in a much different context some 60 years ago.

But Bob Dylan’s musings are as true now here in Doug Ford’s Ontario as they were in the United States in the tumultuous 1960s.

We don’t agree with a great many of the ideas and programs espoused by our premier – nor with his omnibus Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.

Change is not necessarily a bad thing, but that mammoth piece of legislation as a matter of convenience revolutionizes rules around too many things.

Its effect on conservation areas, many of the wetlands that we take for granted (until they’re gone) and tweaks to heritage designation rules are just some areas in which we hope the government somehow comes to its senses and realizes that not everything everywhere all at once needs to be meddled with in the name of so-called progress.

One small thing, however, that Ford’s Progressive Conservatives appear to have gotten right in the legislation is allowing homeowners to add secondary suites and accessory dwelling units “as of right” on their properties.

No longer do you need a zoning change to make it happen. All you need is a building permit.

At this point, it is unclear how popular that idea will turn out to be or how many people in communities like Niagara-on-the-Lake will opt to add an upstairs apartment or similar suite on their properties.

But if people wish, they can have a total of up to three units on any lot where residential uses are permitted.

The three units can be within the existing residential structure or could be something like a basement suite or laneway or garden home.

It’s not carte blanche, but the provincial changes override municipal official plans and zoning bylaws. This all means, in effect, the Town of NOTL can’t stop you from doing it, if you so choose, and if you meet the requirements to qualify for a building permit.

There are some rules and restrictions, but far fewer than there used to be. And the idea, conceptually at least, seems to embody the goal of making more affordable places to live available in existing communities.

That is something that is needed, as anyone who has ever tried to find a suitable rental space in a market like NOTL knows.

Housing advocate Scott Robinson, a NOTL native, has been vocal about the need for the Town of NOTL to actively encourage this approach – while making sure it discourages people from converting them into short-term rentals.

Obviously, that would defeat the whole goal of adding to the permanent housing supply.

And chief administrator Marnie Cluckie has said the municipality will align its own policies to meet the provincial legislation requirements.

That’s good news and we look forward to someday seeing more affordable, attainable secondary units in some corners of our wee town.

It’s a small step in the right direction because, yes, the times have changed.

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