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Ottawa’s new inclusionary zoning policy only benefitting property developers: community groups

Horizon Ottawa says it looks as if the policy was "written by developers, for developers."
2018-02-28 Ottawa City Hall2 MV
Ottawa City Hall, February 28, 2018. (Photo/ Mike Vlasveld)

The City of Ottawa’s approach to its “inclusionary zoning” policy isn’t sitting well with some community organizations. 

ACORN Ottawa and Horizon Ottawa are two organizations speaking out following the community and protective services committee and planning that happened on Thursday, June 16.

On Thursday, councillors tackled the issues of renovation and inclusionary zoning, a policy that would require affordable housing in new developments. 

In a statement following the meeting issued by ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, members say they still have concerns over the city’s current framework proposal for inclusionary zoning.

“Despite many motions being moved yesterday in an attempt to widen the scope of (inclusionary zoning), there are still glaring gaps in the policy,” ACORN said in a statement issued Friday, June 17.

“For example, the policy still only considers up to 10 per cent of affordable rental housing despite home ownership being raised to 20 per cent, designated transit zones where inclusionary zones can apply were not expanded and levels of affordability still do not reach those who need it most.”

And while the policy is one tool that can help address Ottawa’s housing crisis, the current policy “caters” too much to the developer’s interests, according to Bader Abu-Zahra, an Ottawa ACORN board member. 

“Inclusionary zoning is one tool that can help address the housing crisis while also taking profit away from rich developers and delivering them to low and moderate-income communities in the form of affordable housing,” Abu-Zahra said in a statement. “This is why there is an organized push by developers to push back and weaken what the City proposes. This current policy caters too much to developers’ interests and does not reflect the urgency of the housing emergency Ottawa declared over two years ago.”

In its own statement, Horizon Ottawa says the city’s current inclusionary zoning proposal “negates any meaningful consideration for renters,” particularly those on low incomes. 

It also “dismisses” the community’s calls for “bold action to stop mass displacement.”

“This inclusionary zoning policy looks like it was written by developers, for developers and does not take into account any input from the public,” said Sam Hersh, a Horizon Ottawa board member. “A policy as significant as this should have to face an adequate amount of public scrutiny, not be rushed through in the summertime during the dying days of this council term but it’s what we have come to expect from Jim Watson and his exclusive club of councillors.”

ACORN is demanding that Ottawa’s inclusionary zoning policy include the following: 

  • 25 to 35 per cent affordable rental housing;
  • Affordable housing in perpetuity;
  • Targeting households living with incomes that put them in core housing need (paying at least 30 per cent of their income on rent);
  • Maximizing where inclusionary zoning can be applied in the city as the current framework leaves some locations off the table;
  • Minimum requirements for accessible and family units.

In an interview with The Sam Laprade Show on Wednesday, June 15, Dean Tester of Make Housing Affordable echoed much of the same sentiment shared by the two groups. 

Typically, Tester explained, when this policy was enacted in other cities, developers sell a percentage of new housing units at a semi-affordable rate.

In exchange, the city gives developers offsets, such as building taller establishments, getting quicker approvals and/or reducing development charges. 

However, Tester says Ottawa has taken a different approach to inclusionary zoning.

“But here’s the problem in Ottawa: they aren’t doing any of that,” Tester said. “The version of inclusionary zoning proposed in Ottawa right now is to force developers to include a percentage of affordable housing with no offsets.”

Instead, Tester thinks Ottawa is going to see less housing built, and the housing that is built is going to be less affordable. He also believes the city is going to have a system where first-time home buyers are competing for those inclusionary units that do get built in which “90 per cent of those people are going to lose” as a result.

Listen to the full interview with Dean Tester below:



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