Lured by federal dollars, Canadian cities reconsider zoning | ET REALITY


Fourplexes, multi-unit dwellings that are relatively rare in Canada (a country where single-family homes dominate residential streets) appear poised to become more prominent in major cities. The lure of federal money to build housing is causing many municipalities to violate strict zoning rules that once banned fourplexes.

“We want cities to increase their housing ambition and, through federal funding, we are incentivizing that change,” Housing Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement this week. publish in Xthe platform once known as Twitter.

Fraser has been touring Canada to announce agreements with cities made under the Housing Accelerator Fund, a $4 billion program that the government says should “unlock new housing supply through innovative approaches.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the state-owned mortgage insurer, has even provided a form of cheat sheet so that cities increase the chances of success of their applications to the fund. In addition to dropping rules that banned higher-density housing like fourplexes, their strategies include relaxing parking requirements and easing development fees for affordable housing developers.

Quad zoning is a traditionally divisive issue for city councils, and several are reconsidering their position on zoning amid rising housing costs and demographic pressures as Canada pushes to meet its lofty immigration target.

(Read the Ian Austen story from October 2022: ‘Not chump change’: Canada home prices put pressure on wealthy budgets)

Until five months ago, Toronto banned multiplexes in 70 per cent of the city, but these homes now represent a major part of new Mayor Olivia Chow’s plan for a “generational transformation”of its housing system.

So far, the federal government has entered into financing agreements to accelerate housing construction with London, Vaughan, hamilton and brampton in Ontario, and halifax in Nova Scotia, and on Wednesday added Kelownain British Columbia.

Some city councils are still cautiously moving forward with rezoning, commonly unpopular with homeowners who subscribe to the NIMBY (not in my backyard) philosophy to fight development and density in their neighborhoods.

The City Council of Mississauga, the Toronto suburb where I grew up, recently voted against quadruples and instead ordered its staff to study the feasibility of rezoning. That decision put about $120 million in federal funding at stake and prompted Mayor Bonnie Crombie to exercise her “strong mayor” powers (a special veto authority introduced by the Ontario government last year) and overturn the vote. his advice.

“It’s one of the many ways we are working to build the ‘missing middle’ in our city and communicate to residents that Mississauga is addressing the housing crisis,” said Ms. Crombie, who is on leave to run for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. she said in a statement last week.

About 1.5 million households in Canada live in inadequate or unaffordable conditions, according to the 2021 census, which defines these households as those with “basic housing needs.” In other words, one in 10 Canadian households fall into this categorywhich includes private homes.

But the data doesn’t capture the housing needs of students and people living in congregate housing, for example, said Carolyn Whitzman, a housing policy researcher who is presenting a report on basic housing needs to the Federal Housing Advocate in Canada next week.

The number of affordable homes needed to close that gap is approaching four million, Whitzman’s report will show.

“The purpose of more permissive zoning is to allow more non-market housing,” he told me, referring to below-market-rate homes, and specifically rents around $1,000.

“It’s a really exciting time,” he added, noting that a federal election could be called next year. “I think the current federal government knows it needs to act quickly or it will be in trouble.”

  • It was a fire season like no other in Canada, forcing thousands of people from their homes, burning millions of acres and sending heavy smoke south. “It’s like our country exploded,” Tzeporah Berman, a climate activist, told David Wallace-Wells, a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, for his reporting on Canada’s fire year.

  • Peter Nygard, a once-powerful fashion executive, testified at his sexual assault trial this week. Nygard offered testimony that contradicted what his attorney called the “revisionist history” of the five complainants, who accuse him of sexually assaulting them in his office bedroom.

  • Air Canada and the Canadian government have apologized to Mohammad Yasin, a British lawmaker, after he accused them of improperly selecting him for an airport screening.

  • Canadian singer Celine Dion’s songs are apparently favorites of New Zealand’s “siren clubs,” a subculture of Pacific islanders who compete to blast their music at maximum volume.

Vjosa Isai is a reporter-researcher for the New York Times in Toronto.

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