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Hamilton Planning staff bracing for the fallout from provincial housing legislation

Hamilton Planners are adding staff to deal with what is expected to be a slew of new development applications that will arise as a result of Bill 23 and other provincial measures. The government, by ordering an urban boundary expansion, coupled with opening some Greenbelt land has opened the door to new development applications that up until now had been on hold. Much of the land in question is already owned by developers. When GIC chair Brand Clark asked GM Jason Thorne if applications to develop on the Elfrida East plot, one of the largest of the newly-opened tracts of land, were on the horizon, the answer was yes.

The questions came as the Planning and Economic Development committee presented their 2023 budget. They spend about $91 million per year but recover almost two thirds of their budget through fees. Developers often complain about the slow pace of approvals for their projects, but with 887 projects approved last year the department is averaging three and a half approvals per working day. The department is predicting roughly the same number of approvals in the coming year. In the years before the pandemic the department was averaging over 1,100 approvals a year or more than 4 and a half approvals a day. The province has tightened up the timelines for municipalities to approve developments. In response Hamilton has developed a system of conditional approvals that can be granted in a timely manner, but leaving the final approval to the developer who must fulfil certain conditions.

Total value of permits in 2022 was $1.85 Billion, down slightly from 2021’s record of $2.1 Billion. The beigest change in building permits in the last two years is the sharp increase in the ratio of apartments and condos to single-family homes. In both 2021 and 2022, apartments for the first time outnumbered singles, semis, towns and stacked towns.

New industrial and commercial square footage was over a million square feet in 2022, less than half the square footage for both 2020 and 2021. The city has a strategy to attract fore commercial and industrial footage to take the tax burden away from the residential taxpayer, but some of these gains are offset by large industrial companies like Stelco successfully appealing their tax assessments.

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