WATERLOO REGION — Recommendations from a provincial housing task force could help bridge the housing gap in Waterloo Region, according to local groups.
Hold the Line Waterloo Region and Waterloo Region Yes In My Backyard say some of the Housing Affordability Task Force’s recommendations could help get more low-density projects built in existing neighborhoods.
“One of the things the report addresses very well is this idea of missing intermediate housing,” said Sam Nabi of Hold the Line. “So it’s everything from second suites in someone’s backyard or a basement apartment, to mid-sized apartments.”
In an open letter released Tuesday, the two local groups said the housing affordability task force report is a good step toward a positive vision for the area.
That’s if they’re implemented quickly with policies like rent control, eviction prevention, and subsidized housing.
The letter was shared with municipal politicians and local members of the provincial parliament
Hold the Line is a non-profit organization that believes in sustainability. Waterloo Region Yes In My Backyard (WR YIMBY) is a grassroots community group calling on local municipalities to change their zoning bylaws to allow more housing, especially subsidized housing.
Current zoning in Waterloo Region tends to focus on high and low density without too much of a gap.
“Even some neighborhoods that are walkable from an LRT stop are zoned for low density and that’s a missed opportunity,” Nabi said.
Allowing low-density construction to bypass planning processes could help add soft density to existing neighborhoods, the groups said. This would speed up the addition of new homes and allow for the development of single lots without having to wait for a developer to consolidate multiple properties.
The Missing Link would also help people stay in their neighborhoods as they go through different stages of life.
“If you live in a neighborhood and there are only high rises with one-bedroom apartments, if you want to start a family, you’ll have to leave that neighborhood,” Nabi said.
The report recommends allowing projects with up to four secondary units and apartments and gardens to bypass regulated zoning processes and allowing projects with six to 11 floors on transit routes to bypass regulated zoning processes , with no minimum parking requirement.
The Affordability Expert Panel was convened by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in December to propose ways to tackle the housing shortage crisis. The task force report was released in January.
Panel members included members of development associations and real estate professionals.
What happens next depends on the province.
For the purposes of the report, the definition of house included detached, semi-detached or attached houses, apartments, suites, condominiums and mobile homes.
The task force was not asked to examine subsidized housing as part of its report.
According to Nabi, a key element is missing from the report. It does not deal with the field line of the region and the limitation of sprawl. The line is the limit that the region is ready to expand its borders.
“I would have liked to see more commitment in this report to say that we are not going to solve the housing crisis by building more sprawl,” Nabi said.
There are also issues with recommendations that would limit public participation while allowing developers to appeal official plans.
The report recommends that developers again be allowed to appeal to official plans – these are large planning documents prepared by municipalities that guide the growth of communities.
In 2012, the Region of Waterloo’s official plan was the subject of an appeal by developers who said more land should be available for new construction. Handling the appeal was a long and tedious process that was finally completed in 2015.
“You are introducing several years of delay,” Nabi said, into a housing crisis that is “incredibly urgent.”
Ten years ago, the average house price in Ontario was $329,000. By the end of 2021, that cost reached $923,000, according to the report.
That’s a 180 percent increase. During the same period, the average income increased by 38%.
The report says Ontario needs 1.5 million new homes over the next decade to address the shortage.