Toronto debating new housing plan that calls for major zoning changes

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Toronto city council will debate a motion on Wednesday directing staff to create a 2023 Housing Action Plan that targets market, non-market and hybrid housing creation to achieve or exceed the provincial housing target of building 285,000 new homes over the next 10 years.

Mayor John Tory presented the motion, asking staff to report to the executive committee no later than March 2023.

The plan would focus on 15 specific areas, amending zoning laws to “increase density within neighbourhoods, creating “transition zones between commercial and residential areas” and “increasing zoning permissions on major streets.” It is expected to include permitting multiplexes on all residential lots and eliminating exclusionary zoning policies that currently prohibit modest density in most residential neighbourhoods.

“We must move quickly to change policies and advance new programs that will create new housing, be solutions-oriented, and demonstrate a strong commitment to deliver reforms needed to increase new housing and prioritize the supply of affordable and market rental housing that our residents and newcomers desperately need,” Tory said. “We have a duty to current and future residents to distribute growth more equitably and ensure that we create walkable and complete neighbourhoods.”

Tory wants staff to:

  • look at existing plans for the Port Lands and waterfront to “ensure housing density is optimized” and create a post-secondary housing strategy to build student housing, and
  • review urban design guidelines, heritage standards and urban forestry policies to ensure they align with the goal of expediting the delivery of new housing

“These efforts are not intended to create towers on every corner, but to support new forms of housing that will support our diverse communities, create space in our city for both renters and owners, and foster the expansion of communities in a fashion that is both responsible and sustainable,” Tory said in a letter sent to members of city council. “We must move quickly to change city policies and advance new programs that will create new housing, be solutions-oriented, and demonstrate a strong commitment from council to deliver the reforms needed to increase new housing and prioritize the supply of affordable and market rental housing that our residents and newcomers desperately need.”

If approved, the motion will create a regulatory framework to permit rooming houses city-wide and require further review of items including developing a new strategy to encourage the creation of housing on underutilized lands owned by school boards and “to increase construction market capacity” through increased hiring and recruitment.

New strong mayor powers will allow Tory to pass parts of the bylaw with support from just one-third of city council.

“There are going to be some challenging debates at city council about this, that is what it is for but I hope that most of them can get behind what we are trying to do here as being the sensible, rational responsible thing that can be done so we don’t impact in a negative way the wonderful neighbourhoods that make up this city but do recognize that exclusionary zoning and those kinds of things, their day has passed by,” he said.

Staff will be required to complete a framework for the housing action plan by March, including a list of potential housing units that could be created by each initiative.

“Despite a multitude of initiatives . . . affordability has worsened and a more aggressive approach is required to increase housing opportunities and enhance affordability,” Tory said in his letter. “This includes looking at both new policy approaches and new models of housing delivery, such as approving as-of-right zoning for gentle density in neighbourhoods, and a new approach to simplifying housing delivery similar to Edmonton’s overhaul of city-wide zoning by-laws and opportunities for new programs that may further enable the opportunity to deliver new homes.”

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