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Bridge Beat

Mar 21, 2016

Inclusionary Zoning - Why the Usual Suspects should say Unusual Things.

Last week, the government of Ontario committed itself to the use of Inclusionary Zoning, as part of its Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy. See: http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page9181.aspx. That means that there will soon be rules requiring affordable housing units within developments as a condition of approval. 

The decision to give municipalities the power to enact inclusionary zoning by-laws may now be government policy but the parameters of the program are not set and will matter a lot. To give you a sense of how much room for discussion there is, here are some questions looking for answers:

  • Examples of affordable housing in developments in Toronto now tend to stem from Section 37 negotiations. Will inclusionary zoning be an extension of Section 37 density bonusing or will it apply to an as-of-right project as well? 
  •  Will the requirements be satisfied by providing affordable ownership units? If so, who funds the second mortgage? And how does the unit stay affordable permanently? 
  • For rental units, who owns and manages them? Are they spread out or wholly contained on certain floors so that they can be programmed differently? 

These questions will be on the agenda when consultations begin. And, we can predict who will be responding - housing advocates, the development industry, housing providers and municipalities. But will the usual suspects say the usual things? Will the developers hate it (another tax on development making housing less affordable...) and the housing advocates love it (mixed income communities, about time...)? Of course, there is a broader diversity of views within each sector, but they are often obscured by these dominant narratives.

It does not have to be that way, and now is the time to play against type. The Inclusionary Zoning discussion presents an opportunity for people who care about home building (that's everybody on the list of usual suspects) to talk to one another and not just to the government. What if the development industry starts by taking on affordable housing as its issue? What if housing advocates start by seeing the development industry as an ally? What happens if some parts of developer and housing submissions to the government are made jointly?

Possible? I think so. And it would be so powerful that we have to give it a try. Stay tuned. 

John Fox

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Keywords

affordable housing  |  Toronto housing

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