Housing advocates hit out at city’s inclusive zoning proposal

“Inclusive zoning only works if it’s bold and treats housing as a human right. This proposal doesn’t even come close to doing that.”

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Housing advocates warned city councilors Thursday, calling their “modest” inclusive zoning proposal insufficient to address Ottawa’s housing emergency.

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“Every councilor at this table needs to tell City staff that this proposal is unacceptable,” said Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa, who waited seven hours for his turn to speak at the planning committee’s marathon session and community and protective services.

Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa.
Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

“Inclusive zoning only works if it’s bold and treats housing as a human right. This proposal doesn’t even come close to doing that,” Hersh said.

Inclusive zoning, a regulatory tool used by other cities like Toronto and Montreal, requires developers to designate a percentage of the units they build as affordable housing for individuals and families. Ottawa’s proposal would only apply to condominiums and not rental apartments, which Hersh called a “glaring absence.”

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City staff’s proposed inclusionary zoning would apply after a one-year transition period to new developments of 50 or more units in 26 Major Transit Station Protected Areas (PMTSAs), which have been designated in the official plan. Initially, 10% of the floor area of ​​a new condo would be allocated to inclusionary zoning. The plan would be reassessed in 2024, when the percentage could be increased and the policy extended to new rental construction.

“Everything about this proposal suggests the City is not taking Ottawa’s housing emergency management seriously,” Hersh said. “It seems the staff doesn’t mind people sleeping on our streets every night…or there’s a 10-year wait for affordable housing…or people leaving this town because that it is too expensive to rent or own a house here.”

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John Dickie, president of the Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization, said his members support the city’s inclusive zoning recommendation, but warned that increasing the percentage of reserved units could discourage new construction.

“If it impacts the amount of development – ​​and I would say it surely will – then you start losing market rent units and that poses a problem in reaching the supply that we need,” said Dickie.

Developers don’t like uncertainty, and rising interest rates and rising construction costs will discourage construction, Dickie said.

Neil Malhotra, vice president of Claridge Homes, echoed that concern. Imposing higher costs on development around transit hubs will drive buyers away from those areas, he said.

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“That’s exactly what we don’t want to do.”

Ray Sullivan, executive director of the Ottawa Community Land Trust, dismissed those concerns.

“We’re a city of over a million people and growing rapidly,” Sullivan said. “We are one of the wealthiest cities in the country. People won’t stop building houses because of this modest inclusive zoning policy. At the same time, we are a city in the midst of an accessibility crisis and it would be irresponsible not to balance the value and wealth you create…and the public good.

The committee’s recommendation, if approved by city council, will be returned to city staff for refinement and will be presented to council following the fall municipal elections.

The committee also approved a motion calling on the mayor and council to push the Ontario government to revise legislation to protect tenants from so-called renovictions and demovitions, where developers evict tenants, repair those same units, and then rent them out at much higher rents. .

A motion by Somerset Ward Councilor Catherine McKenney also pushed the town to implement a tenant education program to inform tenants of their legal rights.

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