The very first chapter of the Federal Government’s new National Housing Strategy affirms that “Housing Rights Are Human Rights.”
We couldn’t agree more. But what do housing rights look like in practice?
The Ontario Government offered a good example in March 2016, when it introduced legislation that would permit municipalities to enact Inclusionary Zoning by-laws.
Inclusionary zoning has been used in over 800 jurisdictions in the US. As the term suggests, it’s a requirement that new housing developments include some homes for people who could not otherwise afford to live there, creating a modest mix of incomes wherever new development happens.
A good idea thwarted by bad regulations
So, imagine our disappointment when we saw the draft Inclusionary Zoning regulations published by the Ontario Government on December 18th, with a deadline for comments by February 1st.
The proposed regulations:
- Limit the number of affordable homes that can be required to a maximum of 5% in any one development (with an exception of “high density transit-station“ areas, where a maximum 10% could be required). In the US, the average is 15 – 20%, and fewer than 10% of municipalities have limits of 10% or lower.
- Exclude rental housing entirely. Municipalities can ONLY place inclusionary zoning requirements on ownership housing even though our greatest need is for rental housing.
- Limit affordability to 20 – 30 years, punting our affordability crisis to the next generation. Municipalities are not allowed to set rules that would keep housing affordable forever.
- Require municipalities to pay 40% of the cost of making housing affordable – above and beyond the public investments in transit, parks and services that benefit developers.
Just how exclusionary are these regulations?
Today, the average $702,992 for a new condominium in Toronto is affordable only to the wealthiest 19% of households who earn more than $150,000 per year — and most of them already own homes. Under the proposed rules, a measly 5% of the units in new buildings would be reserved for the rest of us – the 81% of Torontonians who couldn’t afford these prices.
And as for tenants who know they can never save enough money for a down-payment? The proposed regulations offer them nothing at all.
This is not inclusion
What would truly inclusionary zoning look like?
They could start by recognizing the government has a role in ensuring that cities include people of all incomes.
And they could return to the origins of the Ontario Government’s own legislation, starting with the private members bill sponsored by MPP Peter Milczyn, now Ontario’s Minister of Housing. At the time, Milczyn said his bill “aims to restore local decision-making.” Remember: this legislation was designed simply to permit municipalities to enact inclusionary policies, not require them to do so.
In fact these regulations will prevent Toronto City Council from exercising the inclusionary zoning powers it has sought for over 10 years. According to former Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, had these powers been in place, Toronto could have generated over 12,000 affordable homes in the past five years. We expect that under these regulations, Toronto would gain a mere 100 – 200 barely affordable condos.
Are you ready to help promote a truly inclusive Toronto?
The deadline for public comments on the draft Inclusionary Zoning regulations is February 1st. To make your views known:
- Contact your MPP. Ask them to uphold the spirit of their own legislation. Drop these restrictive regulations and let municipalities create policies tailored to their needs.
- Tell the Ministry. Ask the province to remove regulations that will exclude most of us. You can email your comments, complete a form, or mail your comments to Laurie Miller, Director, Provincial Policy Branch, 777 Bay Street, 13th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5. The key messages:
- Remove caps on the portion of affordable units allowed in each new development
- Remove caps on affordability periods. Allow affordable homes to stay affordable forever
- Remove requirements to compensate developers
- Remove rules that exclude rental housing
- Learn from the best practices developed by over 800 US jurisdictions.
- Spread the word! Comments must be in before February 1st.
Resources and events:
ACORN Rally for REAL Affordable Housing and Inclusionary Zoning, January 23rd, 11 am, 777 Bay Street