Affordable housing goal for new Ontario government bill

In fact, there are currently bidding wars over rental units, especially in Ontario’s largest city, Toronto.
In fact, there are currently bidding wars over rental units, especially in Ontario’s largest city, Toronto. (Photo: iStock).

The Ontario government reintroduced a bill last week that seeks to provide Ontarians with more affordable housing.

The bill intends to provide Ontarians with affordable housing units across the province, and one major way it intends to do so is through inclusionary zoning.

Inclusionary zoning requires developers to construct some units below market price to make them affordable for low and moderate-income families. The government’s announcement didn’t specify how many units the developers would have to set aside.

Whether this new legislation would be effective, if passed, is debatable. It could work if the government implemented it properly, there were a sufficient amount of units, and the law were actually enforced. Manitoba passed its own inclusionary zoning law in December 2013 and so far, no city in Manitoba has implemented the legislation.

The last time Ontario passed a law intending to make housing more affordable was 2011 when it passed the Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act.

However, since the bill was passed, affordable housing needs in Ontario have only risen.

The government itself rang the alarm that affordable housing is badly needed in Ontario. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs reported in 2014, that between 2004 and 2012, the number of families on the waiting list for social housing units rose from 32,000 to almost 158,500. In 2014, the number of people waiting for affordable housing rose to a “record high” of 168,000 households.

In fact, there are currently bidding wars over rental units, especially in Ontario’s largest city, Toronto. It’s not unheard of for apartments there to go far above asking price, such as a $1,200 apartment renting for $1,480.

Then there is the loophole known as vacancy decontrol, which allows a landlord to charge any amount he or she wants for first rent and only future rent increases would be subject to rent control.

If an inclusionary zoning law unit were vacated and a new tenant were to come in, the landlord would likely be able to raise the price more in line with market prices, which would probably defeat the purpose of inclusionary zoning.

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