MoneyToronto Considers Making Affordable Units In New Projects Mandatory
Montreal aims to find affordable-housing fix that has eluded Toronto, Vancouver
MONTREAL — As Toronto and Vancouver struggle to keep housing affordable for anyone but the wealthy, Montreal says its new, first-on-the-continent development model will help it succeed where other big cities have failed.
The City of Toronto has a powerful planning tool at its disposal that could combat the housing affordability crisis, but advocates are concerned it won’t be used to its full potential.
Inclusionary zoning allows municipalities to require new developments have a certain number of affordable units. The provincial Liberals enacted the zoning strategy last year, and now the city is looking at how it will be realized in Toronto.
We must be bold.Ebony Menzies, housing advocate
It’s already used in more than 800 cities across North America to varying degrees, including San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Vancouver. In , 8,000 affordable units have been built since 2013.
Low income seniors facing demoviction stage protest outside Vancouver building
The Alice Saunders building is set to be redeveloped into a larger complex, which would force 65 residents from their homes.
“Inclusionary zoning is a critical piece for addressing housing affordability in this city, not just today but decades ahead,” said Councillor Brad Bradford at the housing committee meeting Tuesday.
City staffrequiring inclusionary zoning in developments with more than 100 units in downtown areas, assisting households looking to rent with annual incomes between $35,000 to $67,000. For condominiums, between 10 and 20 per cent of units would have to be affordable, depending on the location. For purpose-built rental projects, between 2.5 and five per cent of units would have to be affordable. The units must be affordable for 25 years.
Advocates want more units to be more deeply affordable in perpetuity, as other cities have done. For example, New York City has made it mandatory that up to 30 per cent of new units be affordable in buildings with 10 or more units. There is no time cap.
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What is it about buying a new house or condo that appeals to so many people? Is it that new-home smell? Shiny new appliances you can see your reflection in? The decreased likelihood of there being a scary old ghost living in the closet? Whatever the reasons, Canadians pay quite a premium for a brand-new home. Which these days ― given that 80 per cent of all new residential units in Canada are condos ― means a brand-new condo. According to Urbanation, a new condo in Toronto cost an average of $779 per square foot in the first quarter of this year, having surged some 50 per cent since 2016.
The current assessment bows to pressure from developers, said delegate Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, chair of East York ACORN, a tenant advocacy group.
“Developers are claiming no one will build in Toronto if they’re required to provide affordable housing,” Ruiz Vargas said. “Really, this is ridiculous. Toronto is the hottest housing market in the country. We are the golden egg.”
Ebony Menzies, also an ACORN representative and mother of twins, said she can no longer afford rent in the northwest end of the city, which wouldn’t be part of the proposed inclusionary plan. She now has to rely on financial help from her family.
“The city report sets the bar way too low, and is far too cautious. The housing emergency will not be solved through caution,” Menzies told the city councillors.
Why has Toronto failed to provide affordable housing?
Homelessness is an old, old story that governments at all levels promise to fix. “Every Canadian should be entitled to clean, warm shelter as a matter of basic human rights,” states the Canadian Federal Task Force on Housing and Urban Development Report.
“We must be bold.”
Councillors voted for staff to consider extending the affordability period beyond 25 years, and working with non-profit organizations.
In the last five years, only two per cent of units built in Toronto are considered “affordable” — at or below average market rent, according to city staff.
“We have lost so much opportunity,” said Councillor Mike Layton. He estimated if the city had put in place inclusionary zoning in 2011, Toronto would now have at least 12,000 affordable units.
Renters remain at a disadvantage. Twenty-three per cent of renters pay more than 50 per cent of their income on housing — double the percentage of homeowners and 21 per cent more than in 2006, the city report said.
A fifth of renters lived in housing that didn’t have enough bedrooms, whereas only six per cent of owners lived in unsuitable housing, said the report.
A Toronto woman donated her house when she died. At-risk youth will soon see the benefits
It was a modest brick and mortar gift, bequeathed to Canada by a Toronto resident, and one expected to have a lasting impact on young lives for many years. Maria Scutti’s life and generosity was celebrated on Thursday as part of a public announcement that the little house Scutti left to the federal government in her will is just a few months away from reopening as a transitional home for at-risk Toronto youth. The brown-brick bungalow, near Jane St. and Wilson Ave., was the platform for that public praise and the future site of a plaque honouring Scutti’s gift and one housing advocates praise as a compassionate solution to one part of a citywide homelessness crisis.
The average household that rents has an average income of $45,385, less than half that of households that own. However, the average asking price for a one-bedroom unit is $1,738 a month, meaning renters would have to make more than $69,000 a year for it to be considered affordable — they use no more than 30 per cent of income on housing.
Homeownership also remains out of reach. A bachelor unit on average costs $383,421, meaning the owner has to have a yearly income of $90,000 a year to carry a typical mortgage on this amount, city staff found.
Former Ontario Liberal housing minister Peter Milczyn, who spoke at committee and was in office when the province introduced inclusionary zoning, said the city is on the right track and can increase the affordable requirements over time.
“Inclusionary zoning can be an extraordinarily effective tool to create affordable housing in the city,” Milczyn said. “I think you’re on the right track.”
The current Progressive Conservative government has introduced sweeping development legislation in early May — — that could restrict where municipalities are allowed to require affordable housing.
Milczyn said he doesn’t anticipate it impacting city staff’s current inclusionary zoning proposal.
The city will do public consultations beginning in June into next fall, and will provide the housing committee with a final report and recommendations in late 2019.
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For many prospective homebuyers who want something brand new or need more time to save money, preconstruction condominiums present a tempting opportunity. But buying a preconstruction condo rather than an existing unit comes with risks, including the rare case of a builder scrapping the project entirely, and experts say there's no way for buyers to fully protect themselves from that worst-case scenario. "That's sort of the nature of buying a condominium unit from plans," said Denise Lash, the founder of Lash Condo Law in Toronto. "With that comes the risk and there really isn't much you can do.
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