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FORUM: Affordable housing is a growing crisis (Dec. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · No Comments

Inclusionary Zoning is the answer for responsible development in Toronto

By Mike Layton

Development in Toronto is continuing to boom. However, we are not building affordable housing at the same pace as we are luxury condominiums. Our waiting lists for affordable housing continue to grow and we are now above 100,000 names on the active waiting list. Last year we only managed to house people in 522 units, while 6,181 names were added to the list.

This is further evidence in a long list of income disparity measures in our city, along with the fact that our shelters remain at capacity every night. This is also a problem that can start to be fixed if the city is willing to spend proactively on deeply affordable housing in their capital budget. The city is and has been booming for over a decade, and council and the province missed an excellent opportunity to create units at very little cost, while taking advantage of the hot condominium market.

Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) is one easy way to ensure responsible development and ensure that affordable housing is built in a way that creates communities with diverse socio-economic levels so future Toronto neighbourhoods can be places that anyone can call home.  It is a land-use tool that allows the city to create a requirement that a percentage of units within a new development building is affordable housing. Right now, it is incumbent on councillors and City Planning to negotiate this request with the developer, but there is no requirement that they do so. With new generations of Torontonians increasingly viewing living in Toronto as “out of reach”, this is an important issue to me, and has been throughout my years on council.

I first began advocating for IZ at City Council in May 2015. I brought forward a motion that requested a report from City Planning on a strategy for implementation; a request to the province to make reforms to the Planning Act that would include permissions for municipalities to enact Inclusionary Zoning, and for the province to include affordable housing as part of the review of the Growth Plan and Greenbelt Plan. I appeared in Queen’s Park to speak with the media and to discuss the importance of giving the city the power to implement this, and speak with my provincial counterparts as to its feasibility. It felt like we had momentum and were on the cusp of doing something great for the future of Toronto.

Since then, we had a provincial government under Doug Ford that made changes to the Planning Act through Bill 108. These changes limit where municipalities can implement IZ to only Protected Major Transit Station Areas. This is something that we need to push back on as a city. If we leave it up to the provincial government and developers, we will never build the affordable housing we need. 

An update on IZ is coming to council this month. You can count on me to keep up the pressure on this. The longer we wait, the more opportunities we miss. If 10 per cent of new units were subject to IZ over the last 5 years that would have provided upwards of 23,000 affordable units. The city and province must be serious about the affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and IZ is a crucial step forward in empowering the City of Toronto to create a steady and growing supply of affordable rentals and homeownership units.

Mike Layton is city councillor for Ward 11 University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion