Brampton Guardian: Housing is unaffordable for many Peel residents, but this idea could be a game-changer

Posted July 13, 2021

It was winter 2019 when Nabeela Irfan was looking for an apartment.

Working full-time at a local food bank, the Mississauga resident wanted to move out on her own.

“I’m over 30, I wanted to be able to afford my own place and I wasn’t able to,” Irfan said, explaining that she scoured Craiglsit, Kijiji and more for places that would charge around 35 per cent of her monthly income for rent. “I wasn’t able to afford rent in the city.”

According to a 2020 report by the Region of Peel, owning or renting is unaffordable for 80 per cent of residents.

“There is a huge mismatch between incomes and housing,” she said, explaining that it wasn’t until her income changed that she “lucked out” finding an apartment in Port Credit for $1,300 a month.

The experience inspired Irfan to join the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to call for policy changes that will allow for more affordable housing options in Mississauga, and across Canada.

One option that many municipalities, including Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, are investigating is something called inclusionary zoning.

The Region of Peel has undertaken a study to investigate the possibility of introducing a policy that requires developers that are building new buildings to set out a certain amount of “affordable” housing units, with the region defining affordability based on the average incomes in the area.

The policy would stand for lands around transit hub areas in each municipality, and other incentives for density and purpose-built rental units.

“Certainly, we need more affordable and subsidized housing,” said Peel Region chair Nando Iannicca. “Everyone knows it’s a huge issue and there’s a genuine urge to fix it.” 

The region is looking to establish a policy that would be enforced by the municipalities, and Iannicca is concerned that it could discourage development if not done properly.

If the policy makes it cost prohibitive for developers to build around transit hubs, they will simply buy land outside of the areas outlined—that’s Iannicca’s fear.

“They’re going to vote with their feet and (they are) going to move a block over,” he said. “They [developers] don’t do what they do for the public good, they do it for the profit margin.”

Iannicca believes that some sort of an incentive, a tax break and a break on some charges will be necessary to get developers to sell units or rent for a lower price.

Dave Wilkes, CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), says that his organization approves of the approach Peel is taking.

He says that the incentives being considered, density bonuses, and a phased approach to let the industry adjust will pave the way to success.

“We think it is the right direction,” Wilkes said, explaining that if an inclusionary zoning policy makes it cost prohibitive for developers, the units that aren’t affordable housing would have to sell for much higher to offset the costs.

“A balanced approach must be undertaken,” he said.

ACORN has been advocating for a strong IZ policy in Toronto and says that Peel needs one too.

“Peel ACORN believes that IZ can be an important tool in aiding this housing crisis,” Irfan said, explaining that the group wants to see inclusionary zoning implemented across the entire region, for any development with more than 60 units, to have 20 to 30 per cent affordable units, “keeping these affordable units forever.”

The Region of Peel will be holding consultations on the policy through the summer and fall.

 

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Article by Alexandra Heck for the Brampton Guardian

 

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