June 22, 2016
Author: John Fox
In my June 13 blog post, I posted a link to Bill 204, the inclusionary zoning by-law bill. It’s time to get back to that now as both the Development Industry and Housing Advocates weigh its pros and cons. The Bill itself does much of what you would expect it to do, but has a few little surprises built in. Which is good. Especially for those of us who actually read the thing, as it makes the whole business of reading legislation more entertaining.
The Bill’s main provisions do what you are reading about in the press – Municipalities can authorize inclusionary zoning through their official plans (a new Section 16(4) of the Planning Act), and give effect to those policies by enacting a by-law to enforce them (a new Section 35.2 of the Planning Act). This is where a municipality gains the power to require that any development or redevelopment contain affordable units. However, if you are looking for the part where it says – as long as I am asking for more density, it’s not there. So, no, this is not intended as a new version of Section 37. If you read the Industry’s letter of intent attached to my June 13 blog, you will know that this is a point we can expect more discussion on.
Want to get around the Bill? The legislation makes clear that this policy is not appealable. Because the Planning Act contains a number of places which need to be amended to give effect to that, reading the Bill means that you get that point banged home every second paragraph – at least it feels that way. And just to make sure we have it, you can’t lower the requirement (whatever that turns out to be) through a minor variance either. My message here is not so much that this is a bad thing – I am not there yet – but rather that this would not be the time to sit on the side lines.
Here’s a surprising provision – The Act contains amendments to the subdivision control provisions of the Planning Act which would allow a 99 year lease without consent where the lease is for the purpose of building a project that contains affordable housing units. So we can avoid getting consent by throwing 2 affordable units into a building? My sense is that this section is intended to help non-profits develop land more easily. Let me know your thoughts.
And for the housing providers out there – the transfer provisions in the Housing Services Act are also amended. Ok, you have to be some kind of housing nerd (like your author here) to care about this – but Sections 161 and 162 of the Act are amended to give Service Managers almost all the consent powers, associated with transferring and mortgaging housing projects that are caught by the Act. If you are a non-profit provider and you are thinking about re-developing – you might not care now, but you WILL!
The point here is that Bill 204 is called the Promoting Affordable Housing Act, NOT the Its-all-about-inclusionary-Zoning Act and the last two sections I noted are both aimed (I think) at making it easier to redevelop existing affordable housing.
I am looking forward to exploring all this and more at the BILD Affordable Housing session this coming Friday (June 24) at the Daniel Spectrum. I’ll report back.