Loading articles...

Ontario mandating builders to include affordable housing in new projects

Last Updated Mar 14, 2016 at 3:15 pm EDT

The province has announced a bold new project aimed at ending chronic homelessness in 10 years.

Mayor John Tory, Ted McMeekin, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, and Deb Matthews, the minister responsible for poverty reduction, announced on Monday that the province will be investing $178-million in new funding over three years and create new rules for affordable housing.

“Our vision is of an Ontario where everyone has the opportunity to participate in and contribute to their community,” Matthews said at the Fred Victor Mission on Queen Street East. “We all deserve an opportunity to live our lives to our full potential and when one is homeless, one cannot do that.”

“We’ve recently committed to ending chronic homelessness over the next 10 years and I am absolutely convinced that if we stay committed to that goal, we will achieve that goal,” Matthews said.

The new rules would implement “inclusionary zoning,” which would give cities the power to make builders include affordable housing in new residential projects.

“We’re changing the housing system to make it work better for the people it serves by giving people the freedom to choose where they want to live,” said Matthews.

Vancouver and Montreal have similar policies, as do many major cities in the United States, advocates say.

It’s a step forward that helps Ontario catch up, said Greg Suttor, a housing researcher with the Wellesley Institute.

“It’s not a panacea for affordable housing, but it can help meet some of the needs,” he said.

“It will tend to create more of a social mix in development. For example, in downtown Toronto … if new development only serves the upper half of the income distribution, that’s not as healthy as if we build cities that house a bit more of everybody.”

In Toronto, lower-income people are already being pushed to outlying areas, Suttor said. A recent RBC Economics report listed Toronto’s housing market _ along with Vancouver’s _ as scorching, saying single-detached home affordability “continues to slip deeper into stressful territory for homebuyers.”

According to city officials, there is a housing crisis in Toronto, with more than 91,000 families on the waiting list for affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges that we face in this city,” Tory said. “The challenge is a bigger one because of the scale of the city.”

“I’m pleased to be here to say, as the mayor of Toronto, that it is possible to move agendas like this forward on this crucial issue of affordable housing when we work together.”

“There is a very real and growing divide between those who can afford to live and work here and those who cannot,” Tory said. “As we grow more successful we have to make sure that this city remains affordable for everybody.”

Tory said they want to ensure that people have a place to live and build their lives no matter what neighbourhood they live in or what job they have.

“We need to ensure the availability of safe, secure and affordable housing. Especially for those who need it most,” Tory said.

Tory unveiled an expanded Open Door program last fall, aimed to fast-track affordable housing in the city, and announced that five city-owned sites are being turned into affordable housing.

In April, Tory announced the Open Door initiative in an effort to turn more public land into affordable housing, and make it easier for private and non-profit developers to build affordable housing on city land.

With files from The Canadian Press