Inside Toronto: Councillor Mike Layton asks Queen’s Park to give municipalities new affordable housing tool

Posted November 10, 2015

Trinity-Spadina Councillor Mike Layton is asking Queen’s Park to help make it easier for the City of Toronto to build affordable housing.
Layton, along with Sean Meagher, the executive director of Social Planning Toronto, and a representative from ACORN Canada, Alejandra Ruiz Vargas were at Queen’s Park Monday, Nov. 9 asking Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government to lift its ban on inclusionary zoning policies for municipalities under Bill 73, the Smart Growth for our Communities Act.
Amending Bill 73 would allow municipalities across Ontario the power to develop regulation that requires developers to commit a portion of their builds to affordable housing.
“This is something that the city has repeatedly asked the province for the power to do,” Layton said.
Meagher said allowing inclusionary zoning would be a win-win for the provincial government.
“Nobody is asking the province to do anything here. We’re just asking them to get out of the way,” Meagher told Metroland Media Toronto .
“It doesn’t cost a nickel. If they had done it a decade ago, it would have created somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12,000 units of affordable housing. Twelve-thousand units of affordable housing at no cost to the province seems like a very good deal.”
Meagher added that inclusionary zoning would create necessary clarity for developers.
“Inclusionary zoning says we’re going to set some clear policies about what we’re expecting from everybody and everybody is playing by the same rules and every new development faces the same set of expectations,” Meagher said.
“That clarity saves time and time is money. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”
The push for inclusionary zoning started in May when Layton put forward a motion in council, which was seconded by Ward 18 Davenport Councillor Ana Bailão and had “wide spread support” on council.
Layton said relying on Section 37 funds, which allows municipalities to receive benefits from developers in exchange for allowing housing projects that exceed height and/or density restrictions, just wasn’t enough.
“Instead of us having this notion that if this development’s big enough then maybe they’ll give us the value of Section 37 and maybe if the local councillor deems it necessary, maybe we’ll put it towards affordable housing,” he said.
“In that case we’re only getting a handful of units or some money to do some TCH (Toronto Community Housing) repairs and it’s not close to what we actually need.”
Amending Bill 73 would also allow mixed-income communities to become a more prominent reality in the city as many wards face the rapid spread of gentrification.
“One of the important things about inclusionary zoning is that it would be helpful for all wards because one of the things we see in Toronto is a concentration of poverty in some neighbourhoods in the city and what inclusionary zoning is helpful for, above and beyond creating an adequate stock of affordable housing, is helping to ensure we have an integrated community,” Meagher said.
Adopting inclusionary zoning isn’t the only answer to the affordable housing crisis the city is facing, Layton said, but it’s certainly one of the tools that could alleviate significant pressure on the city.
“We can’t only use this as a solution. We’re always going to need the government to step up and provide more resources, build units and provide financial support. We’re never going to be able to do it with one tool,” Layton said. “But this is one that will certainly be helpful.”
Article by Hilary Caton for Inside Toronto