Ontario urged to overcome NIMBYism and change zoning laws to ease Toronto’s housing crunch


‘Archaic’ laws are at the heart of city’s affordable housing problems, says Ontario Real Estate Association

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‘Archaic’ zoning laws are at the heart of Toronto’s affordable housing problems and need to be redrafted, says the province’s real estate association.

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The zoning regulations prohibit Toronto neighbourhoods from converting a single-family home into a townhome, duplex, triplex or fourplex.

The Ontario Real Estate Association says this encouragement of NIMBYism drives up home costs and weighs on housing  development with additional costs and project delays, and ultimately leaves more families without an affordable home.

Exclusionary zoning policies are at the heart of Ontario’s housing affordability crisis

OREA CEO Tim Hudak

“In too many Ontario cities, it defies common sense that you can take a bungalow and turn it into a monster four-storey home for one wealthy family, but you cannot build affordable townhomes for multiple families without red tape, runaround and exorbitant costs,” said OREA chief executive officer Tim Hudak in a statement. “Exclusionary zoning policies are at the heart of Ontario’s housing affordability crisis in high-growth areas and it’s time the province steps in to modernize these archaic laws.”

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Hudak added that since housing stock cannot grow southward into Lake Ontario or northward into the Greenbelt, the space between has to be used more strategically to house more Canadians.

“High home prices are evidence enough that there are not enough homes to accommodate growing families across the province,” Hudak said.

OREA urged the province to use the Planning Act to promote more as-of-right zoning (zoning that permits a proposed use and land development without special conditions being imposed or requiring approval from a local zoning board) in high-demand urban neighbourhoods.

The real estate association says this will allow a gentle increase in density in neighbourhoods that are close to the subway and transit systems without requiring lengthy case-by-case local zoning approval.

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A recent study by RBC Economics found that while there is a housing construction boom now going on in Canada, Toronto, which needs new housing the most, is missing out on the gains.

Canada’s most populous city saw housing starts rise by only 1.4 per cent (or 500 units) over the past year compared to the 2015 to 2019 average. It is only a drop in the bucket compared to the 26 per cent boost in housing starts seen nationally.

In a recent OREA survey conducted by market research company Abacus Data, nearly seven in 10 Ontarians said housing affordability should be a top priority for the government. It also found that roughly 78 per cent of Ontario residents support minimum zoning requirements in urban areas to encourage more home construction.

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“On the heels of a federal election focused on housing affordability, this issue remains top of mind for many who badly want all levels of government to help bring affordability home – and that starts with increasing and improving housing supply,” said Hudak.

• Email: shughes@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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