Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin introduced legislation Wednesday that will allow Ontario cities to use inclusionary zoning to require developers to incorporate affordable housing units in new developments.
The Promoting Affordable Housing Act would, if passed, “help to ensure that the people of Ontario have better access to affordable and adequate housing,” McMeekin said.
Liberal MPP Peter Milczyn asked McMeekin about the legislation in question period Wednesday. Milczyn said municipalities — including Toronto, where he was a city councillor — have been asking the province for an inclusionary zoning law for years.
“Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, has said that a lack of access to this planning tool has resulted in the loss of the opportunity to create tens of thousands of units that would be affordable,” Milczyn said.
McMeekin thanked Milczyn and NDP MPP Cheri Di Novo for their work on the issue. Both have current private member's bills calling for inclusionary zoning, and Di Novo has introduced several private member's bills on the issue since 2009.
“We were reticent to move forward with either of the private member's bills, because they simply stated a concept,” McMeekin told QP Briefing, after question period. “You know, we’re all in favour of eliminating world hunger next Friday, but if you say it on the Monday and intend to keep your commitment to do that by Friday, you’d better have some details in place.”
He said his ministry has been working on the legislation for more than a year and is continuing to develop regulations that will accompany it. He offered some of the details of the bill to QP Briefing.
Municipal councils will be allowed to pass a bylaw adopting inclusionary zoning and then choose to implement what parameters they wish to apply from among options that will be spelled out in provincial regulation.
Municipalities will be able to offer incentives — such as extra height and density above zoning requirements, a tax rebate or a break on development charges — to developers in order to persuade them to build in the inclusionary zoning framework, said McMeekin.
Developers will also be able to approach cities with their own schemes for an inclusionary zoned development.
The reaction from developers to the plan has been “mixed,” said McMeekin. “We’ve had people from the Daniels Corporation and others encouraging us to move quicker and more aggressively, all the way to ‘you don’t know what you’re doing here.’ ”
The legislation will also make secondary suites in new homes less costly to build by exempting them from development charges, opening up potential source of affordable rental units for low- to moderate-income renters, he said. “We think it will be favourably received by at least one of the two parties on the other side of the house.”
After question period, deputy NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said his party will be happy to support inclusionary zoning.
“What took them so long is the question,” Singh said. “We know that housing is absolutely unaffordable in the city of Toronto and we know there’s this strategy that would have worked, that can work. It’s indefensible the government has waited this long.”