City of Toronto challenges Queen’s Park over affordable housing
By Jennifer Pagliaro
18 August 2016
The city has put the province on notice that proposed legislation to
build affordable housing will leave communities without desperately
needed amenities such as community centres, park improvements and child
While Toronto city council has long pushed for provincial rules that
would force developers to create affordable units, a proposal from the
province to do just that would exempt developers from paying for other
asking them to make an
Councillors and city staff say the province is asking them to make an
impossible choice — build badly needed affordable housing or secure
every day amenities that make communities livable and are increasingly
necessary as the population balloons.
The city submitted its official response this week to the province’s
proposed legislation, first announced in May, for what’s known as
“inclusionary zoning.” The city’s housing advocate Councillor Ana
Bailao said they’ve written to “strongly oppose” the province’s plans.
“By creating affordable housing, you’re not getting rid of those
pressures,” Bailao said. “Those pressures are still there and having
affordable housing competing for what we think are just as important
city-building initiatives, I don’t think it benefits anybody.”
When a developer applies to the city to construct buildings taller or
denser than zoning rules allow, the city can negotiate Section 37
benefits — named for the part of the provincial Planning Act that
governs them — to compensate the community.
Inclusionary zoning, meanwhile, is meant to create homes for those with
moderate to low income — a middle ground between a booming housing
market that is pricing many out of downtown and midtown neighbourhoods
and public housing where most live below the poverty line.
Without inclusionary zoning powers, the city has had to look for
alternatives to building affordable units, such as offering financial
incentives for developers through the Open Door program. In one case,
the city is moving ahead in partnership with Dominus Capital
Corporation to build 80 affordable rental units on surplus city land in
CityPlace next to the rail corridor.
The province's proposed regulation would allow cities to decide how and
where to apply inclusionary zoning rules as part of their official
plans. The province has not yet specified whether it will regulate the
minimum size of a building that would trigger inclusionary zoning or
the minimum number of units that must be affordable. Importantly,
developers would not be able to appeal those affordable housing
requirements at the provincial land appeals body, the Ontario Municipal
But the province has been clear that the cities shouldn't be allowed to
impose Section 37 or “density bonusing” on top of affordable housing.
Mark Cripps, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and
Housing said, if passed, the regulations could include some
circumstances that would allow cities to require developers to provide
both affordable housing units and Section 37 benefits. But the province
has not outlined how that might work and how rare an exception that
In May, when the plan was announced, Cripps told the Star that “it is
important to explore how Section 37 and inclusionary zoning might work
together while still ensuring profitable development projects.”
Sharon Hill, manager of strategic initiatives, policy and analysis in
the city’s planning division, said the regulation creates an impossible
“In many ways it would just be business as usual” for developers, Hill
said, asking them to provide only one benefit or another at a time when
existing community infrastructure is already “stretched to the limit.”
Councillor Josh Matlow, whose Ward 22 (St. Paul’s) includes the
increasingly dense Yonge-Eglinton area, said, “It’s time for developers
to pay their fair share to support the new residents that they are
“It makes no sense to make it an either/or proposition,” he said of the
waiver of Section 37 benefits. “All Torontonians deserve access to a
safe and clean home regardless of their income. Our growing population
also needs child care, parks libraries, recreation and other services
to build livable communities.”
Councillor Mike Layton, who represents the downtown Ward 19
(Trinity-Spadina) and who has been pushing for inclusionary zoning
powers, said Section 37 not only contributes to things such as new
recreation centres but is also used to secure needed improvements such
as widening sidewalks.
He said there’s also a concern councillors looking to fund specific
projects in their ward may be more reluctant to enforce inclusionary
“It shoulders the entire burden on the rest of the community,” he said.
Those representing developers say they support the province’s proposal.
Ontario Home Builders’ Association CEO Joe Vaccaro said it's
unreasonable for the city to ask for both Section 37 and affordable
housing—a burden he argued would ultimately be borne by homeowners.
You have to set your priorities
“You have to set your priorities, and with Section 37 being determined
on the back of outdated zoning, it simply becomes a piling on effect,”
he said. “We support the proposal because we think this move really
signals that the province is directing us into a partnership model.”
The city’s submission to the province also asks that the city be
allowed to accept cash-in-lieu of affordable housing units or to
dedicate units offsite, which is currently not allowed under the
proposed regulations. It also requests that the province set a minimum
threshold that 10 per cent of units be designated as affordable.
The city wants a minimum threshold of
10% of units be affordable housing. That is a high number as the city
also would like 10% of all units to be three-bedroom units. This sounds
like new private condo developments will become the source of most of
all new affordable housing in Toronto.