At the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) we fully support initiatives to combat climate change. However, the decision by Toronto City Council to accelerate its TransformTO plan by 10 years could have disastrous consequences for the homebuilding industry and those in need of housing.

Toronto originally planned to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero by 2050. This ambitious deadline was difficult enough for developers, especially in light of the unprecedented challenges our industry is facing just now. It also relied on technologies being developed.

As an essential industry, our builders and trades have worked through the pandemic to build much-needed housing and infrastructure. Stringent safety protocols have been implemented on worksites. Meantime, we have been dealing with supply chain disruptions, materials and labour shortages.

Imposing this advanced timeline will only propel our industry down a path that is not practical or sensible and force the industry to prematurely adopt practices that are not yet even proven feasible.

Jumping ahead by a decade will only complicate matters for builders and developers, undoubtedly lead to confusion and significantly hamper the production of new housing in Toronto.

We are expecting more than 400,000 immigrants to enter Canada in each of the next two years. Most of these immigrants will end up working and living in Toronto. Without enough housing, you have a perfect storm. It is a recipe for disaster and will only slow down the economic recovery of Ontario.

It is commendable that city council wants to show leadership in the fight against climate change through implementation of the Toronto Green Standard for new private and city-owned development. But disrupting the system by advancing the climate strategy implementation beyond what was originally approved will only exacerbate an already-difficult situation for developers.

The new timeline, which sets a course for the city to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, is not in sync with policies established by the provincial and federal governments. This will only make the situation more confusing for developers. Adding such a burden at this time is not wise.

RESCON sent a letter to council objecting to speeding up the climate strategy timeline. We noted the many reasons the plan should not be accelerated. In the end the city chose to ignore the reasoning.

The original plan counted on renewable electrical energy resources being readily available by 2050. However, some of those resources will not be available at the level that’s anticipated by 2040. With demand for electricity expected to increase in the coming years, this presents a major problem.

We also have not seen any data on costs associated with accelerating the timelines and what it means for housing affordability. This is a major problem.

The accelerated deadline makes Toronto one of only three big cities in North America with this 2040 target, which sounds impressive on paper. However, the key is whether the plan is really practical.

To reach net-zero by 2040, the city would have to achieve a 45 per cent reduction in GHGs from 1990 levels by 2025, and 65 per cent by 2030. The problem is that many of the new requirements will take years to implement.

Ultimately, the industry will be responsible for the added costs, but they will be passed on to new homebuyers and renters. With a push towards electrification, homebuyers will also be on the hook to pay upfront costs for infrastructure and to cover higher operating costs. Toronto Hydro is looking at an upgrade of more than $10 billion to its distribution infrastructure to deal with the increased electricity needs.

There is also an assumption that half of the electricity will come from clean energy generation such as solar panels and biogas, but there is no such venture operating on a mass scale just now. As a result, the province might have to rely on fossil fuel-burning power plants which would lead to more GHG emissions and certainly defeat the intended purpose of accelerating the climate action plan.

In our opinion, Toronto council acted hastily without consulting members of the building community and gathering all the data necessary to make an informed decision. The fight against climate change should not be a competition as to which jurisdiction can set the most rigorous targets first.

Back to Blog.