Posted November 4, 2021
In the next few weeks, city council will vote on whether to protect Torontonians’ right to housing, or protect the development industry’s profits by enacting a new policy for affordable housing called inclusionary zoning. This is thanks to the pressure of ACORN members, and allies, across Ontario who won inclusionary zoning (IZ) policies in 2018 from the provincial government.
ACORN is a group of low and moderate income people organizing for social and economic justice, and inclusionary zoning has been an important campaign because our members face the housing crisis every day and see IZ as a major opportunity to deliver thousands of units of affordable housing in new developments.
However, due to pressure from the development industry, the city has presented a slap in the face to low income tenants rather than showing they take the housing crisis seriously and giving low income communities hope. The currently proposed policy falls short of what the city’s own studies show is possible.
What is being voted on in the next few weeks recommends zero per cent of rental buildings as affordable housing until 2026. It also sets a lowball rate of five to 10 per cent of condos as affordable housing, and phases in slowly reaching eight to 22 per cent by 2030. This is too low, and too slow, and a missed opportunity.
What ACORN, and many other community groups, advocates, allies and progressive politicians are recommending is 20 to 30 per cent of new developments set aside as permanent, deeply affordable rental housing. And we are all hoping that Mayor John Tory, and all of city council will stand up and seize this opportunity to deliver almost 30,000 units of affordable housing in the next few years by requiring the maximum amount possible of affordable units through a bolder inclusionary zoning policy.
Other provinces, and municipalities have required similar amounts of affordable housing through inclusionary zoning policies and delivered thousands of units to their residents. It’s time that Toronto faces the hard reality and does something for those who are struggling.
The housing crisis has reached critical levels, and middle class workers are starting to feel the pinch that low and moderate income people have known for years. COVID-19 highlighted the ties between housing and health. Front-line workers were hailed as heroes, and now chips are being called in; will councillors deliver on their promise and provide these workers with homes or will they protect the profits of developers? If no one can afford to live in the city, who will work in the city?
Every month across the city, ACORN members hear from their neighbours about how young people cannot move out, young couples cannot afford to start families and low income older adults have to choose between food, rent and medication. ACORN members have fought hard for 11 years to come to this point, and want to see their efforts rewarded with a bold policy that capitalizes on the opportunity. It’s not every day that Toronto can win affordable units for free. Let’s make the best of this opportunity and deliver the goods.
Article by Alejandra Ruiz Vargas for the Toronto Star