On April 12, last-minute changes made to inclusionary zoning regulations under the Promoting Affordable Housing Act came into effect, giving municipalities the ability to require that affordable units are created within new residential developments.
Inclusionary zoning allows municipalities to require developers to include affordable housing units in residential developments to create mixed-income communities, but the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) believes this change undermines the partnership balance required to deliver government-mandated affordable housing in the province.
“Leaving housing providers to negotiate how to provide government-mandated affordable housing with municipalities will only make things more political and fuel more NIMBY-motivated actions and councillors,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO of OHBA, in a joint statement with the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). “Adding housing supply and choice to communities across Ontario just got more political when what we need is government leadership and partnership to get more homes to the market.”
Municipalities will now have the ability to decide the total number of affordable housing units to be included in some residential developments, how long units stay affordable, and what measures and incentives can be used to offset the costs of the development of affordable units; determine whether affordable units can be built on another site, and if so, how many; and expand housing options and increase the supply of affordable housing in their communities.
The new inclusionary zoning bylaws will apply to developments of 10 or more units, although municipalities could decide to set a higher threshold based on local circumstances. Municipalities can also apply inclusionary zoning to any type of residential development, whether it is ownership or rental, based on local needs and priorities.
“Inclusionary zoning is an important tool that will help us increase the supply of affordable housing here in Toronto,” said Ana Bailão, Deputy Mayor of the City of Toronto and Toronto’s Housing Advocate, in a press release issued by the province. “This will help us ensure our future growth is more inclusive while maintaining our economic competitiveness. It is essential to keep our communities diverse and prosperous.”
The OHBA points out that the changes to the regulations provide no policy framework to municipalities in implementing inclusionary zoning. Without the partnership framework, the OHBA says the key issues that determine whether a housing development is financially viable are left to municipalities to individually determine. These key issues include the maximum number of affordable units, the affordability level of the units, and the necessary planning and financial tools to support the creation of these units.
“Everyone knows that there is no such thing as free housing – this policy walks away from that fact and pretends that magically new affordable units will simply ‘appear’,” added Vaccaro. “Anyone who says we can provide these units without government support is willfully ignoring how this works in other jurisdictions. What they are really doing is telling home buyers to cover the bill by adding it onto the price of their home.”
The OHBA and BILD say these changes to regulations will give municipalities an unchecked right to arbitrarily dismiss housing where it’s needed, thereby exacerbating the housing supply problem in the GTA and lowering the region’s economic competitiveness.
“The building industry makes the investment to build communities,” said David Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD. “The province’s last minute changes put an end to partnership. As providers of all the housing in GTA, it is highly unlikely this policy is going to bring about change to the record high unaffordability and housing supply constraints that exist in the GTA. At the very minimum, a provincial appeal mechanism to LPAT should be included to mitigate the politics from the planning process.”