February 1, 2018
The Honourable Bill Mauro
Minister of Municipal Affairs
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
The Honourable Peter Milczyn
Minister of Housing
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5
Dear Minister Mauro and Minister Milczyn:
RE: Proposed regulation on inclusionary zoning – concerns and recommendations
I hope this finds you well. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) commends the Government for giving municipalities inclusionary zoning powers as a means to increase the availability of affordable housing. However, I am writing today to raise concerns about the “Proposed regulation under the Planning Act related to inclusionary zoning,” and to urge the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to make changes to its proposed regulation to make sure that it provides the tools and flexibility that municipalities need to meaningfully address the affordable housing crisis.
In the OHRC’s strategic plan 2017-2022, we committed to using our mandate and powers to advance human rights by making clear how systemic discrimination causes and sustains poverty and, in particular to “bring a human rights lens to government and community strategies aimed at addressing poverty, homelessness, and hunger.”
Our strategic plan reflects the fact that many people who identify with Human Rights Code (Code) grounds are disproportionately under-housed, homeless or living in poverty in Ontario. In almost every city, First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit peoples are over-represented in the homeless population. Persons with mental health disabilities and/or addictions, women, older persons, children and youth, transgender people and racialized communities face particular dynamics of marginalization. Often these grounds intersect to produce unique and compounded forms of discrimination for people living in poverty.
The Ontario government has acknowledged the connection between poverty and identification with a Code-protected group in subsection 2.2(3) of the Poverty Reduction Act, SO 2009, c 10, which recognizes as a principle “that not all groups of people share the same level of risk of poverty” and that “the poverty reduction strategy must recognize the heightened risk among groups such as immigrants, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, aboriginal peoples and racialized groups.”
Providing affordable housing is central to addressing poverty, and therefore to realizing the human rights of Ontarians. In our housing work, we have seen strong community support for inclusionary zoning as a valuable tool that can significantly increase the availability of affordable housing, and have therefore supported its implementation for several years (see our submission to the 2015 Long-term Affordable Housing Strategy Update, and In the Zone: housing, human rights and municipal planning, 2009).
However, since the release of the proposed regulation, planners, advocates and community organizations have told us that they have considerable concerns about its provisions. In particular, the OHRC notes concerns raised by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, and the many community agencies that signed Social Planning Toronto’s open letter to the Minister of Housing, such as:
- The low (5%) cap on percentage of affordable units that municipalities would be allowed to require. While it is important to provide for mixed income communities, this number is far lower than percentage of affordable housing required by most other jurisdictions where inclusionary zoning is used
- The unprecedented requirement that municipalities pay developers 40% of the cost difference between the affordable and the market price, which will also have an impact on the supply of affordable housing
- Limiting the affordability period, such that any affordable housing created will not be permanent, but revert to market price within a generation
- The exclusion of rental housing developments from inclusionary zoning, despite the fact that most people living in poverty require rental housing.
The OHRC shares community concerns that these and other provisions could significantly restrict the capacity of municipalities to use inclusive zoning to create sufficient below-market affordable housing to meet the needs in their communities.
Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and housing, has been recognized as a fundamental human right. Inclusionary zoning has the potential to be a major step forward in alleviating poverty and advancing the human rights of some of the most vulnerable Ontarians. We urge the Ministry to amend the proposed regulation to ensure it meets this potential.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to seeing an amended regulation. Consistent with our mandate to report on the state of human rights in the province, and in the interest of transparency and accountability, we may make this letter public.
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
cc: Honourable Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
Kenn Hale, Advocacy Centre Tenants Ontario
Sean Meagher, Executive Director, Social Planning Toronto