Housing report

Critics praise housing report’s zoning proposals, but see red flags

Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force makes little mention of affordable housing construction or the speculation and investment buying that many believe is driving up home prices.

But among its 55 recommendations released on Tuesday, critics and politicians agreed that the proposal to end exclusionary zoning – the restriction that closes 70% of residential land in Toronto to all but single-family homes – will be the key to solving the housing crisis.

The proposal will almost certainly be controversial with the owners. But the transition has already begun, with the introduction of policies allowing alleyway, garden suite and multiplex housing in these neighborhoods, Mayor John Tory said.

Without introducing this soft densification, he said, “We simply won’t be able to support growth in an equitable and just way and ensure that everyone can call the city home.

Tory said the city will be able to persuade residents that the proposal is in the best interest of maintaining stable neighborhoods and the housing future of their children.

“Stable neighborhoods don’t necessarily mean static neighborhoods,” he said. It is ironic, the mayor added, that the large houses now owned by one family were once houses with two or three apartments.

Removing single-family zoning is just one part of a sweeping public planning overhaul proposed in the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force report released Tuesday. He says Ontario needs to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years. That’s nearly double what it has built in the past decade, although last year there were 100,000 starts, according to the province.

The task force says municipalities will need to open up established neighborhoods to more affordable units, eliminate the politics of development approvals, and encourage more rentals and modern building techniques and materials.

It is unclear whether the province will adopt any or all of the recommendations. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said on Monday he had time to act on the findings before the June 2 election.

Toronto City Councilor Mike Colle, who was behind a motion in city council last month asking the province to implement anti-rollover and speculation measures, said his reading of the report was “a huge buffet for developers”, with no “affordability requirements”. anything.”

“Unless you put some kind of restrictions in place, (the speculators) will see just another opportunity to make windfall profits for years to come,” said the former Liberal MP. In the meantime, he said, residents will take on huge mortgages they cannot afford.

NDP Housing Critic Jessica Bell said zoning reform is “a smart and sustainable approach that will allow more affordable townhouses, duplexes and triplexes to be built.” These are typically $500,000 cheaper than a semi-detached house and more in line with what a family can afford, she said.

But, she said, there are red flags among the recommendations, including the proposal to extend municipal boundaries into environmentally unprotected areas, putting urban sprawl on farmland.

“It’s not sustainable,” she said. “It locks people into epic, soul-destroying two-hour rides. And it is costly for municipalities to provide infrastructure and services to new developments.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner called it a “significant contradiction” that the report talks about protecting farmland and the environmentally sensitive Greenbelt, while also suggesting that housing be aligned with Highway 413, which “will accelerate sprawl and increase climate pollution”.

Schreiner said the task force was entirely focused on the role of the private sector in boosting housing supply rather than assigning a role to provincial and federal governments.

“Part of the reason you are seeing a housing affordability crisis is that provincial and federal levels of government retreated from housing in the mid-1990s. worsened every year since then, and it has reached a breaking point,” he said.

Property expert John Pasalis says there are good things in the report, including a limit on public consultations which are used for stone housing development. But he is not convinced that the working group’s proposals will lead to greater accessibility. It’s also not entirely realistic.

“We build 65,000 homes (per year) on average in Ontario. How do you get to 150,000,” he said. “We are not going to more than double our housing completions in 10 years. You can’t solve this problem with a two-month workgroup.

Nor does he believe that the private sector will provide more affordable rental housing. “Builders are building what is most lucrative and that is high end rentals and not because they are evil people but because they are businesses and they want to make a profit,” he said. he declares.

The composition of the task force and its homebuilding agenda completely omitted any discussion of the other ingredients needed to build community, said Cathie Macdonald, co-chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FONTRA).

“It’s complicated. It’s not just about building development apps,” she said.

Macdonald said FONTRA also opposed the report’s proposal to limit public and stakeholder consultations, saying they were building better developments and communities.

“Consultation is important to bring perspective and knowledge about the neighborhood – what works and what doesn’t,” she said. “The province has certainly cut as many opportunities as possible to do that. »

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