Housing

How inclusionary zoning stands to grow affordable housing in Ontario

February 23rd, 2017 by Claudia Pedrero

This article was first published on rabble.ca

On December 6, 2016, the Ontario legislature passed the Promoting Affordable Housing Act, 2016, expanding the powers of Ontario municipalities to implement “inclusionary zoning,” a requirement for developers to build affordable units when constructing new market‑rate housing. The Act changes the provincial Planning Act, RSO 1990, c.P.13, by obliging some municipalities, while making it optional for others, to adopt inclusionary zoning policies. A discussion on the adoption of the Act and debates surrounding its inclusionary zoning provisions can be found on our firm’s blog.

These legislative changes come years after rising housing prices, lagging income levels and dwindling federal and provincial funding have created an increasing need for new affordable housing in Ontario. Significantly, according to the 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, over the past 13 years Toronto’s house prices have nearly doubled compared to household incomes, thus making market-rate housing unaffordable for an increasingly larger portion of the population. The same study also notes that nearby areas such as Hamilton and Oshawa are becoming unaffordable for middle‑income residents.

What inclusionary zoning will look like on the ground remains unanswered. By extension, it is difficult to predict whether the changes will have a significant impact on the need for affordable housing in Ontario. For example, it is unclear what an “affordable unit” means under the new changes and how affordable units will have to be priced. However, the province is slated to release regulations in early 2017 that will hopefully give some meat to its approach and allow municipalities to develop their policies and bylaws. Read the rest of this entry

Human Rights Refresher for Housing Co ops, Saturday, March 4, 2017 10 a.m. to noon.

February 6th, 2017 by Celia Chandler

Are you on a housing co‑op board that is struggling about how to respond to complaints that second hand smoke is causing a child’s allergies to get worse? Are you a housing co‑op manager concerned that the capital budget is going to take a hit as more members need accessibility retrofits in their units? Are you a bit unclear about what things are covered by the Human Rights Code and what are not?

As a lawyer serving housing co‑ops, I’m asked these kinds of questions all the time. It also seems like there are a few co‑op members out there who want to use the language of human rights to justify the things they’d like to see at the co‑op.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about human rights in housing co‑ops, please join us at a human rights refresher as part of our IC Education series. We heard many of you who don’t like coming to our office in downtown Toronto, so we’re taking this one on the road! Otter Creek Co‑operative Homes has graciously offered to let us use its meeting room at 835 McQuay Boulevard, Unit 30 in Whitby. Sign up early because space is limited.

RSVP here

What medical documentation should you accept when asked to accommodate a disability?

February 2nd, 2017 by Celia Chandler

Our housing provider and employer clients often get asked to accommodate mental and physical disabilities under the Human Rights Code. While we’ve known for a long time that it’s OK to ask for medical documentation to support the requests, it’s been a bit unclear what should be included in doctors’ notes. Sometimes clients got notes that were too skimpy and other times clients got lengthy ones that revealed much more information than was necessary to meet the request.

Yesterday, the Human Rights Commission released some guidance for doctors, for people requesting accommodation, and for housing providers and employers who have been asked for accommodation. The Commission tells us that a doctor’s note should include:

  • that the person has a disability
  • the limitations or needs associated with the disability
  • whether the person can perform the essential duties or requirements of the job, of being a tenant, or of being a service user, with or without accommodation
  • the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed to allow the person to fulfill the essential duties or requirements of the job, of being a tenant, or of being a service user,
  • in employment, regular updates about when the person expects to come back to work, if they are on leave

To see what the Commission released yesterday, click here.

To see the Commission’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability, click here.

Save the Date: IC Education, our workshop series, will turn its attention to human rights in housing on March 4, 2017, at Otter Creek Co‑operative in Whitby. More details to follow soon!

 

The How-To’s of Co-Buying – Resources from our event

February 2nd, 2017 by Iler Campbell

We’ve been hearing more and more about co-buying as a means of accessing the real estate market for those who might otherwise not be able to afford a house of their own. The incredible amount of interest in our event last Thursday just went to show how interested people are in this concept.

For those of you who wish to learn more or refresh your memory, here are the presentations from our event.

 

Landlord and Tenant Board ups its rates effective Jan 16, 2017

December 19th, 2016 by Celia Chandler

Housing providers take note – whether you’re a co‑op or a landlord, the province has decided you will pay more to assert your rights at the LTB starting January 6, 2017.   The co‑op application filing fee will increase $20 to $190.   Landlords have a similar rate increase, but if they file their application electronically they can realize a savings of $15 – making the application fee only $175.

The list of fees is found here.

The province makes a move towards affordable housing

December 12th, 2016 by Celia Chandler

Last week Bill 7, Promoting Affordable  Housing Act, 2016, passed third reading and received Royal Assent.  Bill 7 is part of the government’s Long‑Term Affordable Housing Strategy.

The province’s news release describes Bill 7 as a way to increase the supply of affordable housing and modernize social housing in the following four ways:

  • By giving municipalities the option to implement inclusionary zoning, which requires affordable housing units to be included in residential developments;
  • By making secondary suites such as above-garage apartments or basement units in new homes less costly to build, by exempting them from development charges. Secondary suites are a potential source of affordable rental housing and allow homeowners to earn additional income;
  • By giving local service managers more choice in how they deliver and administer social housing programs and services to reduce wait lists and make it easier for people in Ontario to access a range of housing options;
  • By encouraging more inclusive communities and strengthening tenant rights by preventing unnecessary evictions from social housing and creating more mixed-income housing; and
  • By gathering data about homelessness in Ontario by requiring service managers to conduct local enumeration of those who are homeless in their communities, so that Ontario can continue to work towards its goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025.

The bill was passed, but not everyone is thrilled with it and the sticking point seems to be the inclusionary zoning option.  (Regular readers of our blog will know that inclusionary zoning is an approach that we’re interested in and something we’ve blogged about before.)   At Tuesday’s debate, the NDP’s Percy Hatfield expressed the concerns of Toronto Councillor and strong housing advocate, Ana Bailao, and of the co‑op sector’s Harvey Cooper.  Both are worried that as it’s presented, inclusionary zoning will force municipalities to make hard choices between housing and other community improvements like daycare and parks, so called “section 37 benefits” .    As inclusionary zoning will be optional for municipalities, time will tell what the uptake is and where it is adopted, how effective it is as a tool to expand the affordable housing stock.

More immediately though for our clients, Bill 7 amends the Residential Tenancies Act to clarify that neither a landlord nor a non‑profit housing co‑op can give an eviction notice “on the ground that the member has ceased to be eligible for, or has failed to take any step necessary to maintain eligibility for, rent-geared-to-income assistance as defined in section 38 of the Housing Services Act, 2011.”  These amendments, in force immediately, are found in the RTA at section 58(3) (for landlords) and section 94.2(3) (for housing co‑ops).