City says proposed legislation creates an impossible choice for the city – asking councillors to choose between affordable units and community infrastructure.
Aug 18, 2016
Torstar News Service
Without inclusionary zoning powers, the city has had to find other ways to get affordable housing built. In one case, the city is moving ahead in partnership with Dominus Capital Corporation to build 80 affordable rental units on surplus city land in CityPlace next to the rail corridor.
The city has put the province on notice that proposed legislation to build affordable housing will leave communities without desperately needed amenities such as community centres, park improvements and child care spaces.
While Toronto city council has long pushed for provincial rules that would force developers to create affordable units, a proposal from the province to do just that would exempt developers from paying for other community benefits.
Councillors and city staff say the province is asking them to make an impossible choice — build badly needed affordable housing or secure every day amenities that make communities livable and are increasingly necessary as the population balloons.
The city submitted its official response this week to the province’s proposed legislation, first announced in May, for what’s known as “inclusionary zoning.” The city’s housing advocate Councillor Ana Bailao said they’ve written to “strongly oppose” the province’s plans.
“By creating affordable housing, you’re not getting rid of those pressures,” Bailao said. “Those pressures are still there and having affordable housing competing for what we think are just as important city-building initiatives, I don’t think it benefits anybody.”
When a developer applies to the city to construct buildings taller or denser than zoning rules allow, the city can negotiate Section 37 benefits — named for the part of the provincial Planning Act that governs them — to compensate the community.
Inclusionary zoning, meanwhile, is meant to create homes for those with moderate to low income — a middle ground between a booming housing market that is pricing many out of downtown and midtown neighbourhoods and public housing where most live below the poverty line.
Without inclusionary zoning powers, the city has had to look for alternatives to building affordable units, such as offering financial incentives for developers through the Open Door program. In one case, the city is moving ahead in partnership with Dominus Capital Corporation to build 80 affordable rental units on surplus city land in CityPlace next to the rail corridor.
The province’s proposed regulation would allow cities to decide how and where to apply inclusionary zoning rules as part of their official plans. The province has not yet specified whether it will regulate the minimum size of a building that would trigger inclusionary zoning or the minimum number of units that must be affordable. Importantly, developers would not be able to appeal those affordable housing requirements at the provincial land appeals body, the Ontario Municipal Board.
But the province has been clear that the cities shouldn’t be allowed to impose Section 37 or “density bonusing” on top of affordable housing. Mark Cripps, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said, if passed, the regulations could include some circumstances that would allow cities to require developers to provide both affordable housing units and Section 37 benefits. But the province has not outlined how that might work and how rare an exception that might be.
In May, when the plan was announced, Cripps told the Star that “it is important to explore how Section 37 and inclusionary zoning might work together while still ensuring profitable development projects.”
Sharon Hill, manager of strategic initiatives, policy and analysis in the city’s planning division, said the regulation creates an impossible trade-off.
“In many ways it would just be business as usual” for developers, Hill said, asking them to provide only one benefit or another at a time when existing community infrastructure is already “stretched to the limit.”
Councillor Josh Matlow, whose Ward 22 (St. Paul’s) includes the increasingly dense Yonge-Eglinton area, said, “It’s time for developers to pay their fair share to support the new residents that they are profiting from.”
“It makes no sense to make it an either/or proposition,” he said of the waiver of Section 37 benefits. “All Torontonians deserve access to a safe and clean home regardless of their income. Our growing population also needs child care, parks libraries, recreation and other services to build livable communities.”
Councillor Mike Layton, who represents the downtown Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina) and who has been pushing for inclusionary zoning powers, said Section 37 not only contributes to things such as new recreation centres but is also used to secure needed improvements such as widening sidewalks.
He said there’s also a concern councillors looking to fund specific projects in their ward may be more reluctant to enforce inclusionary zoning.
“It shoulders the entire burden on the rest of the community,” he said.
Those representing developers say they support the province’s proposal.
Ontario Home Builders’ Association CEO Joe Vaccaro said it’s unreasonable for the city to ask for both Section 37 and affordable housing — a burden he argued would ultimately be borne by homeowners.
“You have to set your priorities, and with Section 37 being determined on the back of outdated zoning, it simply becomes a piling on effect,” he said. “We support the proposal because we think this move really signals that the province is directing us into a partnership model.”
The city’s submission to the province also asks that the city be allowed to accept cash-in-lieu of affordable housing units or to dedicate units offsite, which is currently not allowed under the proposed regulations. It also requests that the province set a minimum threshold that 10 per cent of units be designated as affordable.
To see in this article in its original form, please visit: http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2016/08/18/toronto-challenges-ontario-over-affordable-housing.html