Trends and issues in land and real estate development – What you missed from Landpro Conference 2023

Key Messaging

  • LandPRO Conference is an annual premier “how-to” conference for land, condo, real estate and development professionals in the GTA and throughout Ontario, now in its seventh year.
  • Key macroeconomic trends currently affecting Canadians include, continued pressure from inflation, the Canadian economy’s sensitivity to high-interest rates, and the complexity of the Canadian labour market.
  • Given the upcoming transit and infrastructure investments happening in the GTA, opportunities exist for third parties to help deliver Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) and create dynamic and vibrant complete communities focused around these investments.
  • The Ontario Government’s Bill 109 and 23 have provisions currently in effect, that impact existing and proposed development applications including refund provisions, ministerial zoning tool, parklands requirements, and development charges updates.
  • Accessibility in new housing supply given the aging population is a top-of-mind emerging trend and opportunity for land and real estate professionals, with a number of supports available to support the creation of truly inclusive communities.
  • Economic Development can support your business – the department provides Vaughan’s business community with research on national, provincial, regional and local economic trends and offers business intelligence through key activities such as including data analysis, market research, and the provision of data to support business operations, expansion and workforce development.
  • Interested in hosting your next conference or event in Vaughan? Tourism Vaughan can support your planning needs – the City offers quality venues to host a wide range of meetings, conferences or events at a convenient location accessible by road, rail or transit.

Weren’t able to attend the 2023 LandRO Conference this spring? Whether you are a developer, real estate professional, or interested in what trends and emerging issues are top of mind in land and development in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Economic Development has what you missed.

What is the LandPRO conference and who attends?

LandPRO Conference is an annual premier “how-to” conference for land, condo, real estate and development professionals in the GTA and throughout Ontario, now in its seventh year. The conference sees more than 1,000 top land professionals for a day of learning and insights, strategies, and issues that are affecting the land industry.

The conference is organized by Krcmar Surveyors Ltd., a full-service professional land surveying company specializing in expansive, multi-faceted commercial, residential, retail and hotel land development projects and Protect Your Boundaries, a comprehensive online resource for realtors and land professionals in the Greater Toronto Area, providing land and property boundary knowledge, tools and services.

Vaughan’s construction and building materials sector is integral to supporting residential, commercial, and industrial building growth across Ontario and Canada. Vaughan’s Construction industry contributed $3.9 billion in Real GDP to Vaughan’s economy in 2021.

The construction and building materials sector in Vaughan is home to many of Canada’s top builders, developers, contractors and building material suppliers, this sector is supported by a large and concentrated workforce in the construction trades and engineering. The sector comprises work in residential, industrial and commercial construction at a provincial and national level.

What to watch out for in 2023

Economic Development has curated highlights on emerging trends and issues that are top of mind for 2023 from presentations presented throughout the conference. Here’s what caught our eyes and ears:

1. Economic Update

While inflation continues to place pressure on Canadians, the availability of jobs for educated workers has grown substantially due to economic diversification into knowledge-based economies.

Benjamin Tal, Managing Director and Deputy Chief Economist CIBC Capital Market delivered an economic update highlighting key macroeconomic trends affecting Canadians. Highlights included:

  • Global supply chain pressure is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Inflation continues to place pressure on Canadian consumers.
    • Canada’s sensitivity to increased interest rates, when compared to the U.S., is due to a variety of factors, with mortgage renewal rates at 5 years in Canada and 30 years in the U.S. being one of the predominant factors.
    • It is expected that interest rates will hold steady throughout 2023 with potential cuts in 2024.
  • Labour market conditions continue to be a complex issue in developed nations, In Canada:
    • Availability of jobs for educated workers has grown substantially between 2020- and 2023, primarily due to economic diversification into knowledge-based economies.
    • Participation rates are increasing and have improved drastically among new immigrants between 2020 and 2023.
    • Job vacancies continue to be an issue felt across many industry sectors, with those offering lower wages facing higher vacancy rates.
    • Seventy-three per cent of Vaughan’s population over 25 has a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree – surpassing both the provincial (68 per cent) and national (67 per cent) average.
2. GO-Metrolinx Expansion and Impact on the GTA

A panel exploring GO-Metrolinx expansion and the impact on the GTA was moderated by Lindsay Dale-Harris from Bousfields Inc., with representation from Metrolinx, WSP Canada, Emblem Development and Brattys LLP.

Vaughan is a city on the rise – by 2051, its population is expected to more than double, increasing by 66%. Regional linkages via an integrated transportation system is one of the building blocks to a complete urban community. Transit connections enable economic growth, enhance quality of life and create a sustainable future.

Opportunities exist city-wide to capitalize on these major investments as a catalyst for business growth, connecting businesses directly with clients and highly-educated local talent.

Highlights included:

  • There are nearly 3.5 million cars owned within the GTHA, and the region grows by 150,000 new residents annually, with an estimated 41 per cent population growth expected by 2041.
    • Vaughan’s population is expected to increase 66% by 2051.
  • One in every four trips crosses a regional boundary, and 79 per cent of trips are currently made by car.
  • Employment growth in Toronto has significantly outpaced recent projections.
  • The Province has directed a focus on higher density with Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs)[1], Protected Major Transit Station Areas (PMSTAs)[2], Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) and beyond.
  • Opportunities exist for third parties to deliver Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) at new and existing transit stations along the GO network to build vibrant, complete communities at and around transit.
    • Development considered under a TOC approach is designed to increase transit ridership, promote other modes of access to stations through optimizations of land use close to transit stations, bring housing and employment in closer proximitiy to transit, and that reduces congestion and emissions.
    • The TOC approach allows Metrolinx to leverage third-party investment to explore new funding avenues.
  • For development to deliver TOCs, it is best to engage with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario early on and at due diligence.

3. Bill 109 and 23 Update

Patrick Harrington, a partner and member of Aird Berlis’ Municipal & Land Use Planning Group, delivered a presentation to provide technical updates on Bills 109 and 23.

The presentation highlighted specific provisions from Bills 109 and 23 that are currently in force and how these changes impact existing and proposed development applications. The province is also undertaking a review of A Place to Grow and the Provincial Policy Statement.

Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, was introduced by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It is described by the Ministry as an action to advance the province’s plan to address the housing crisis by building 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years.

Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act, brings about changes to the Development Charges Act, 1997 and the Planning Act, and was the first major legislative response to the recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force Report.

  • Refunds provision from Bill 109 is in force and consequently, municipalities are required to refund all or part of planning application fees if decisions on applications are not made within prescribed timelines. However, the government has committed to introducing legislation that, if passed, would delay the implementation of development application refund requirements set out in Bill 109 by six months, from January 1, 2023 to July 1, 2023.
  • The introduction of a new ministerial zoning tool, the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) from Bill 109 is in force. From an economic development perspective, if used wisely, the CIHA can be a great tool to expedite highly significant employment and economic development projects.
  • Conservation Authorities are now unable to provide a program or service related to reviewing and commenting on a proposal under various Acts including the Planning Act. In addition, they are now unable to appeal a Planning Act decision unless it involves natural hazards.
  • The maximum interest rate that can be charged by municipalities in respect of a “frozen” development is a prime rate plus one percent.
  • Municipalities are required to spend at least 60 percent of their development charge reserve funds at the beginning of each year starting in 2023 on the following: water supply services, wastewater services and services related to highways.
  • Municipalities’ DC by-law is to be updated at least once every 10 years compared to the current requirement to update at least once every 5 years.
  • Official plans and zoning by-laws may not prohibit up to three residential units with no minimum unit size and no more than one parking space required per lot.
  • Residential development with 10 or fewer residential units are exempt from site plan control. In addition, municipalities can no longer regulate exterior design through the site plan control process with the exception of matters related to grading and site integration and matters covered by a sustainable design by-law.
  • The maximum amount of parkland that can be conveyed or paid in lieu is 10 percent of the value of the land for sites under five hectares and 15 percent of sites greater than five hectares. Also, the maximum alternative dedication rate has been reduced to one hectare per 600 new units for land and one hectare per 1,000 new units for cash in lieu. New parkland rates do not apply if parkland requirement was imposed as a condition of subdivision and subdivision approval occurred before Nov. 28, 2022. New parkland rates apply to new units development without a parkland-related subdivision condition.

The City of Vaughan’s 2022 City-wide Development Charges are coming into effect as of June 1, 2023 in accordance with the Province’s transitional provisions as included in Bill 23.

4. Accessibility in residential construction and supports available

One in five (22 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 years and over identified as having at least one disability, with more than half identifying as having a physical disability. Of those with a physical disability, nearly half required at least one type of aid or assistive device or accessibility feature in their home.

Accessibility is an important aspect of fully inclusive communities. In Vaughan, 16 per cent of the population is aged 65 years or older, with that number expected to nearly double as another 44,310 residents will be turning 65 or older in the next 10 years. The ability to age in place or in the community will become an issue as populations age, given most new and existing homes do not meet the needs of Canadians who require accessibility accommodations.

Creating inclusive and accessible communities requires collaboration among businesses, organizations, and government.

On the heels of the province’s goal of 1.5 million new homes by 2031 to accommodate shortfalls and population growth, Identifying and removing barriers for people with disabilities extends to ensuring available housing supply in both urban and suburban settings incorporates physical accessibility into built form.

Jake Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of The Daniel Corporation delivered a presentation on ‘Accelerating Accessibility – Design, Development, and Construction Initiatives’ to promote inclusionary building practices and provide an overview of supports available to increase the supply of accessible housing. Key takeaways included:

  • Accessibility is behind where it needs to be to meet the needs of those with disabilities and move forward as a truly inclusionary society where people of all ages and abilities can fully participate in society.
  • In 2021, 78 per cent of Canadians want to age in place in their current homes, but only
    • Only 26 per cent feel they will be able to do so, as most new and existing homes do not meet the needs of Canadians who require accessibility accommodations.
  • Accessibility features are easier when built-in – not bolted on after the fact. Daniels’ offers an Accessibility Designed Program, where standard accessible layouts are available at no additional cost to buyers. These include features such as: roll-in showers, roll-out balconies with swing doors, power operated entry door, wider doors, and clearance under sinks.
    • More than 100 units have been sold to date in high-rise projects under this program, which is also now integrated into purpose-built rental communities
  • Supports available for businesses:
    • AccessNow is an accessibility technology company looking to make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate communities in over 35 countries
      • Their free app allows residents and visitors to search, rate and discover locations in their community that meet their accessibility needs.
      • Businesses can register for free to begin engaging with the accessibility community – establishing trust, helping to stand out competitively, and to showcase accessible experiences. Businesses are also able to receive valuable feedback on how they’re doing.
    • The Accelerating Accessibility Coalition (AAC) was launched in partnership with ULI and Access Now in 2022, dedicated to changing the face of accessibility in real estate.
      • ULI Toronto serves as the secretariat for the coalition.
      • This coalition is made of real estate development and accessibility leaders, initially focused on supporting accelerating the supply of new accessible buildings and homes in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) – the AAC has more than 30 members since launching late last year, including EllisDon, Daniels, and Cadillac Fairview.
      • The first phase of the coalition is about increasing awareness and understanding of why and how to build housing that is accessible at little to no additional cost.
      • Members can access the AAC Accessibility Toolbox, an open source and evolving asset to use as a point of reference or direction, with recommended actions organizations can use to guide them on their accessibility commitment. This could be used by anyone who works land and real estate development – from architects, to developers, to builders.

Are you interested in becoming a member of the AAC? To join as a member, all that is needed is to apply with a statement of support that states why accessible housing is important to an organization. You can see others’ statements here. For more information, or to submit a statement and join as a member, write to Linda Weichel at with Accessibility Coalition in the subject line. Read more about the Coalition, its mission and toolbox.

Once an organization becomes a member, there are four ways to start engaging:

  1. Explore the tools in the Accessibility Toolbox, and consider how to implement one or more in upcoming projects.
  2. Contribute to the Toolbox if they have any research, case studies or helpful templates that other developers/builders can benefit from.
  3. Promote the coalition on social media and directly with peers and potential signatories.
  4. Stay tuned to sign up for the education & awareness sessions that will be offered by AccessNow in the coming months.

From supporting small businesses through the business planning process, to end-to-end site selection assistance, to research and business intelligence, Economic Development is here to support businesses of all sizes to succeed in Vaughan and is your go-to source for insight into Vaughan’s economic community. Connect with us today.

Interested in hosting your next conference or event in Vaughan? Tourism Vaughan can support your planning needs – the City offers quality venues to host a wide range of meetings, conferences or events at a convenient location accessible by road, rail or transit. Get the support you need – connect and learn more about all Vaughan has to offer.

[1] MTSAs are lands generally within a 500 to 800 metre radius (10 minute-walk) of a transit station or stop, primarily located along existing or planned transit corridors. MTSAs are one component of the new York Region Official Plan which was approved by the Province.

[2] Some or all of the City’s MTSAs may be identified as PMTSAs. To be identified as a PMTSA, the following must be identified in the specific area: the number of people and jobs/hectare to be accommodated; the permitted uses of land and buildings; the minimum densities that are allowed in buildings developed in the area; An Official Plan Amendment is required to implement PMTSAs and must be approved by the Province. A municipality may use a tool known as Inclusionary Zoning to help increase the supply of affordable housing locally within a PTMSA.