Toronto keen to get new affordable housing powers
Mayor John Tory says the city intends to use new provincial powers to require developers to build affordable housing.
March 14, 2016
The city is eager to seize proposed provincial powers to require builders to include affordable housing units in all new residential projects, Mayor John Tory said Monday.
With Toronto’s affordable housing crisis growing ever deeper, the days of waiting for developers to act voluntarily are over, he said.
“Response from the development community has been extremely limited when it comes to increasing the supply of affordable housing in the city of Toronto,” Tory said.
On Monday, Tory joined his provincial counterparts, including Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin, at a news conference at the Fred Victor Mission announcing the province’s plan to introduce inclusionary zoning legislation, part of Ontario’s updated affordable housing strategy.
The proposed law will give municipalities the ability to make planning approvals conditional on new housing projects containing a certain percentage of affordable units. Details will be subject to local consultations, and Tory urged developers to come to the table without reservations.
“The question is not whether we’re going to do something about this the question is how,” he said.
The Ontario Home Builders’ Association said it will work with all levels of government “to ensure that inclusionary zoning does not undermine housing affordability.”
“Requiring free housing units as part of a new community approval is just another way to have new neighbours cover the bill as the cost of their new home goes up to pay for these new units,” the association’s CEO, Joe Vaccaro, said in a news release.
Mitchell Cohen, president of GTA real estate builder Daniels Corp., called the move a “game changer.”
“Affordable housing will not be built by accident, happenstance or simply by virtue of good intentions,” said Cohen, who added that past, incentive-based approaches weren’t working.
Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, has said the city could have built 12,000 units in the last five years if inclusionary zoning had been in place.
Fewer than 3,700 affordable housing units have been added since 2010 though a modest federal-provincial program, city officials say. Toronto has 168,000 households on waiting lists for affordable housing.
McMeekin said the initiative, as well as other provincial long-term investments in housing subsidies and benefits, is “bold and it is transformational.”
The minister added he is encouraged the new federal government plans to introduce a new national housing strategy and shares Ontario’s outlook on the need to invest in more housing and infrastructure.
“For the first time all three levels of government seem to have a shared sense of purpose . . . the stars are indeed lining up.”