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May 1st, 2018 · No Comments

Affordable housing missing from proposed inclusionary zoning

By Mike Layton

Over the past five years, the City of Toronto could have built nearly 10,000 new affordable housing units, according to the former chief planner. How? By mandating affordable units in new developments.

Unfortunately, despite repeated requests, the provincial government has not given the city the power to mandate affordable housing, called inclusionary zoning. Having these powers would have meant that there would be 10,000 fewer of the 100,000 families waiting for a place to call home.

Every day that developers are able to apply for new building permits without an inclusionary zoning policy in place is a lost opportunity to build more affordable housing units.

Every day that developers are able to apply for new building permits without an inclusionary zoning policy in place is a lost opportunity to build more affordable housing units. The construction boom in Toronto has its limits, and if we wait too long, the opportunity for permanent growth of our affordable housing portfolio will be lost.

Cities across the United States use inclusionary zoning policies to address shortages in their affordable housing stock. For example, the mandatory affordable housing policy in some New York City neighbourhoods requires 20 to 30 per cent of a development to be permanent affordable housing. This not only creates new affordable units, but helps build mixed income communities that are proven to help lift people out of poverty.

Late last year, the province released draft regulations (finally!) to allow cities to use inclusionary zoning to mandate affordable housing, but it was not what advocates for inclusionary zoning expected.

The draft policy was released quietly just days before Christmas, limiting the amount of time available for cities and organizations to comment. The proposed rules would only apply to new condominium construction, not new purpose-built rental buildings. Developers also retained the ability to choose if the new affordable units would be rental or ownership.

Lastly, the proposed rules require cash-strapped cities to subsidize these newly built affordable units by directly giving money to developers. To be clear, cities will need to pay developers to construct these units while they make millions off our shared municipal infrastructure. The fees would be taken from development charges necessary to build and expand new services like transit, libraries, and parks. As cities grow, new services and infrastructure are necessary to accommodate the growth.

It is clear that the province is more interested in the developer’s bottom line than the determination of the municipalities to shape their own policies to meet their unique needs. Municipalities need to be given the authority to make decisions about their housing stock. Developers shouldn’t be driving housing policy when their motives are profit, not people.

The good news is that housing advocates and progressive councillors continue to fight back and push the province to pass legislation that will achieve the housing goals of the City of Toronto. I remain hopeful that we will see meaningful changes to the inclusionary zoning policies and the province will see the demand for comprehensive legislation that gives all municipalities the power they need to give their residents a place to call their home.

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.

 

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Tags: Annex · Opinion