In response to the Ontario government’s announcement that it will bring forward legislation giving municipalities the ability to implement inclusionary zoning, one of the province’s main builders’ associations has criticized the plan for making the problem worse. The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) says that while the status quo is clearly not working in providing affordable housing for many Ontarians, inclusionary zoning “is not a silver bullet solution.”
The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin, said that he wanted the legislation to pass quickly. For those municipalities that choose to adopt them, the new powers would let them enact zoning regulations making it mandatory for developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in a development in order to be approved. The government has said it will consult municipalities, developers and other interested parties in the coming months.
In its response, RESCON says that while it applauds efforts to tackle the problem of housing affordability, inclusionary zoning will help only a few people, while causing “even bigger affordability problems” for many others. “The money ultimately will be coming out of the pockets of other new-home buyers, not the government,” said Richard Lyall, president of RESCON. He said millennials are particularly vulnerable because they are already struggling to get into the housing market.
The builders group put forward three proposals of its own, saying more dialogue is needed to remove barriers to affordability. The biggest obstacle is development charges which, according to RESCON, have increased 1,259 per cent over the past seventeen years. These are charges paid by developers to the municipality for each residential unit they build. The charges go to infrastructure, transit, and a range of services. Reducing these would allow builders to build three- and four-bedroom condominiums, Lyall argues, so that more families could stay in downtown areas, especially Toronto.
Another proposal from RESCON is that as-of-right zoning be used to promote more mid-rise, wood-frame buildings on major city corridors. Building five- and six-storey condo and apartment buildings along streets like Eglinton Avenue in Toronto would help the city achieve its intensification goals, while helping to lower the cost of new housing.
RESCON also recommends greater focus on purpose-built rentals to give Ontarians greater choice for housing.
On the other hand, affordable housing advocacy group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has applauded the government move. ACORN would like to see “virtually all” new multi-unit residential developments include a certain percentage of affordable units.