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Province moves on inclusionary zoning affordable housing tool

March 16, 2016
Leah Wong

Municipalities in Ontario may soon have another legislative tool at their disposal to encourage the development of affordable housing units, following an announcement from the provincial government.

On Wednesday, in an update to the province’s long-term affordable housing strategy, Municipal Affairs and Housing minister Ted McMeekin announced the launch of consultations with municipalities, developers and other stakeholders on the proposed introduction of legislation on inclusionary zoning, which will allow municipalities to mandate that a portion of units in new developments be set aside for affordable housing. McMeekin said he hopes to introduce the new rules before the legislature breaks for the summer in June.

“The private sector can play, and must play, a much larger role in providing aff ordable housing,” said McMeekin. “We have to set the stage and work with our many partners, including the private sector, who I think want to be engaged. With the changes we are proposing they will be engaged.”

McMeekin added that inclusionary zoning would encourage the creation of economically-diverse communities in the same housing development.

Inclusionary zoning is just one of the changes being proposed as part of the province’s revisions to its long-term affordable housing strategy. The government also wants to decrease the number of people
who are homeless and increase housing stability for low-income residents through increased funding and legislative changes. A review of the strategy was launched in April 2015, with consultations that included stakeholders from housing, health and human services as well as the public.

According to the government, the review identified both a shortage of affordable rental units built by private and non-profit providers and a need to increase opportunities for affordable home ownership.

In addition to expanding construction of affordable housing, the provincial strategy envisions measures to ease the cost and other burdens on homeowners who want to add a secondary suite (often as a basement unit). The government is expected to introduce legislation that would require municipalities to provide development charge exemptions for second units and amend Ontario Building Code standards to reduce unnecessary costs associated with building second units.

The province has also pledged to invest $178-million over the next three years to transform the Ontario housing system, with $100-million in operating funds for supportive housing (for individuals who receive housing allowances from the government), $17-million for a pilot project on a portable housing benefit for domestic violence survivors and $45-million for a community homelessness prevention initiative. The province will also support the long term construction of 1,500 new supportive housing units.