Review of Provincial Housing Affordability Task Force

Toronto City Hall
100 Queen St. West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Attention: Julie Amoroso

RE: EX 31.11 – Review of Provincial Housing Affordability Task Force

Dear Mayor John Tory, Members of Executive Committee,

We support the proposed City of Toronto response to the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force.  We agree that there is a critical housing problem in Toronto. The affordability problem is worldwide, especially in rapidly growing cities. Too many low-income households cannot afford the rents they pay. And too many new middle-income families are priced out of the market for owner-occupied housing.

Unfortunately, the recommendations of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force will do little to reduce the cost of housing, especially for low-income families. It is all very well to say that housing prices will decline if more housing is built, but the economics of housing are not responsive to rhetoric.

  • The reason the prices of condos and single-family houses are high has little to do with the process of supply. Housing prices are high because of the speculative bubble in land values.
  • And the reason more rental housing is not being built is that market rents are too low to make purpose-built rental housing profitable at current land values.
  • The only significant current source of new rental housing is condos being bought as investments by speculators who expect capital gains from further future increases in housing prices.

The rhetoric of too much of what the Task Force advocates is that careful community planning is detrimental to housing supply, that preserving neighbourhood character is anti-housing, that the involvement of citizens in the planning process is merely an impediment to faster construction, and that the current planning process simply keeps development from being approved.

However the Task Force’s rhetoric is not borne out by the Toronto data. City Planning’s pipeline report of last June indicates that there were enough already-approved units in developments as of that date to satisfy the anticipated population growth in Toronto from then to 2030. That inventory of approved developments not yet built can only have grown since last June.

The Task Force report includes a number of recommendations, such as  relaxing zoning controls within low density areas and for as-of-right zoning of mid-rise housing on avenues that are served by public transit that  are being considered in Toronto through the EHON initiatives. Intensification and greater flexibility in how houses are divided and used needs to be consistent with preserving neighbourhood characteristics – front yards, massing, height, and design, green space, trees – all make Toronto’s neighbourhoods attractive.

Toronto’s problem is not that good neighbourhoods are inconsistent with intensification.  Rather, it is that neighbourhoods of any kind have become increasingly unaffordable, for reasons that have little to do with the planning process, or the involvement of residents in community planning.

Therefore, where we particularly disagree with the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force is with respect to its recommendations:

(a) for a provincial takeover of municipal zoning decision-making. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations regarding the planning process are nothing more than a developer’s wish list: get residents out of the way, take many planning decisions away from municipalities by substituting uniform provincial standards, and make development approvals automatic if municipalities take more than a few months to analyze complex development proposals. And

(b) its failure to recognise housing demand issues, and address land speculation.

We attach FoNTRA’s submission to the Ontario Government on the Task Force Report, including detailed comments on all 55 of the recommendations.

Yours truly,

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

Cathie Macdonald
Co-Chair, FoNTRA

cc: Members of Council
Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning Division

Photo: George Kelly via CC BY 2.0 DEED