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FORUM: Ford is no friend of affordable housing (June 2021)

July 15th, 2021 · No Comments

Bill 108 cements opposition to inclusionary zoning

By Jessica Bell

Housing affordability crisis requires action

Housing prices are now so high that the National Bank of Canada calculates that only the top five percent of income earning households can afford to buy an average Canadian home. Housing affordability is one of the defining issues of our era, and it threatens the very soul of Toronto.

To build a thriving, green, livable and truly affordable city, we must pass laws to make housing more affordable for all.  Here are some measures the city and province can take to make that a reality.

Build affordable housing

Directing police and security to forcibly move desperate people into temporary shelters and hotels is no solution. 

Governments need to invest, build and buy more community housing, modular housing, and permanently affordable housing, including publicly-owned housing on provincial public land. 

Ontario has ample suitable land, and the programs already exist – they just need funding.

Clamp down on speculation

There was a justifiable outcry when the Globe & Mail reported on developer Core Development Group’s intention to buy $1B of single family homes to rent. 

Core Development is part of a wave of investors, from REITs to Wall Street firms to pension funds, who are investing in the housing sector, driving up prices and forcing first time home buyers to rent the very homes they want to buy.

Homes must be for people first, investors second. 

That’s why I introduced a motion calling for Ontario to bring in a two percent annual speculation tax on homes owned by people who don’t pay the majority of their taxes in Ontario, as well as a GTHA wide two percent annual vacant homes tax to motivate investors to sell or rent empty homes. 

Toronto is also developing its own vacant home tax (the proposed rate is one percent), and the public is able to provide input now.

Better protection for renters

While the pandemic has softened rents, they still remain high. 

Our office regularly hears from renters who are being evicted, facing unfair above-guideline rent increases for superficial renovations, and being subjected to noisy and dirty renovations – 666 Spadina Ave is the notorious example – that is driving them to give up and move out.

Being a renter is precarious and expensive. It should be safe and affordable. 

That’s why I am calling for better government enforcement of illegal evictions, as today there is next to none.  

I am calling for real rent control, including a cap on the amount a landlord can raise the rent if a former tenant leaves. 

Toronto has begun assessing whether an effective renoviction law from New Westminster, B.C. can be applied here. 

The bylaw requires landlords to get a business license, prove proposed renovations require the tenant to leave, and pay the tenant for alternative accommodation until they can return.

Build new housing

The Greater Toronto Housing Authority needs new housing supply. 

The real question is what do we build, and where?

Developers make the most profit by building high rise condos of bachelor and one bedroom units, and single family homes on greenspace – so that’s what they build. 

The Ford government is encouraging urban sprawl by forcing municipalities to expand their boundaries to permit new development on nearby farmland. 

Increasing urban sprawl will destroy our ability to meet current climate goals, as this kind of low-density development locks families into car dependency.

It should be easier to construct missing middle housing, like garden suites (the city is developing guidelines for garden suites right now), and more affordable duplexes, triplexes and townhomes within existing neighbourhoods. 

It is incumbent on governments to expand and improve services to meet any increase in population. Funding for parks, community centres, a healthy tree canopy, transit, and schools ensure liveability needs are met for all.

Allow inclusionary zoning

Toronto is developing an inclusionary zoning policy that would require new residential developments near transit zones to include affordable housing units. 

But will the units be affordable for a few decades or permanently? What percentage of units in a new building will be classified as affordable? And what definition of affordable will the city use? 

Toronto is seeking feedback from you to answer these questions now. Premier Ford put hard limits on inclusionary zoning through Bill 108, which limits inclusionary zoning rules to transit stations. 

Inclusionary zoning should be allowed beyond these transit stations.

Housing can be affordable, and it’s upon us to change the laws to make it so.

Jessica Bell is MPP for University–Rosedale.


Tags: Annex · Opinion