Inclusionary zoning - will it be something Burlington decides it want to permit? Not with this city council.

News 100 redBy Staff

December 28, 2016



The province recently passed legislation that will over time create more affordable housing. The new legislation makes changes to four existing acts that will give municipalities the option to implement inclusionary zoning, which requires affordable housing units to be included in residential developments.

Note that this is an option and Burlington might not want to go this route. It will first have to be approved at the Regional level

inclusionary-cant-affordSecondary suites such as above-garage apartments or basement units in new homes will be less costly to build because they would be exempted from development charges. Secondary suites are a potential source of affordable rental housing and allow homeowners to earn additional income.

Giving local service managers (that would be the Region of Halton) 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.

The legislation encourages inclusive communities and strengthening tenant rights by preventing unnecessary evictions from social housing and creating more mixed-income housing.

The Region will now have to gather data about homelessness and perform local enumeration of those who are homeless in their communities.

What is inclusionary zoning?


It is certainly dense when it comes to development – and it is one of the most popular places in Toronto for younger people. Minutes away from the downtown commercial core. There are affordable units in these developments.

The Torontoist describes it this way: “Typically regulated by municipalities, inclusionary zoning is one way to make sure affordable housing gets built in a way that promotes socio-economically diverse neighbourhoods. It works by requiring developers to include a set portion of below-market units, usually 10 to 30 per cent, either to buy or sell in every residential building of a certain size.

“Inclusionary zoning can be mandatory or incentive-based–also called discretionary or voluntary. The latter offers developers incentives to build units valued below typical market rent or sale prices. Some municipalities may offer density bonuses so developers can build and sell more units, or they may waive development fees or fast-track projects through the approval process. Volunteer programs are often more attractive to developers, and can be for municipalities as well, since they aren’t as likely to inspire opposition and legal challenges the way mandatory programs can. However, they tend to result in fewer affordable units being built.

“Mandatory programs, which were proposed by the Ontario government, don’t give developers a say in how and when to build affordable units–those regulations are set by local governments. Some municipalities that require inclusionary zoning, however, also offer developers breaks, such as density bonuses.

“One potential drawback of mandatory inclusionary zoning is that developers who don’t want to participate may take their project to a municipality where the legislation doesn’t apply. The Province, after all, is only giving municipalities the option to mandate inclusionary zoning, not the requirement to do so. And while Toronto is poised to take advantage of the opportunity, other municipalities may not be.”

When, if ever, will Burlington see inclusionary zoning? Can you imagine what the public debate on this one will sound like?

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7 comments to Inclusionary zoning – will it be something Burlington decides it will require ? Not with this city council.

  • James Schofield

    Burlington has been down this road once before. In 1989, it was the first municipality in the province to implement an inclusionary zoning policy. It was struck down by the OMB in 1991 on the grounds that the Planning Act did not allow for such a policy. 25 years later, the province has made the necessary changes to enable IZ. It will be interesting to see if we take another kick at this can.

  • James

    Land values, municipal application fees, construction costs, etc… in this area are through the roof, and this idea of “affordable housing” means a developer is being asked to provide housing units at a financial loss to them. That isn’t going to happen. Developers, like all other businesses, are in it to make money, not lose it. And rightfully so. They are a business, not a charity.

    So the developer has several options. 1) If 10% of a development is to have affordable housing, the prices for the remaining 90% will increase to cover the loss. In other words, the rest of us pay. 2) The developer can seek provincial grants or incentives to provide affordable housing. In other words, the rest of us pay. 3) The developer can get the municipality to reduce or waive development charges. In other words, the rest of us pay.

    Ultimately the costs of a development are all real dollars that must be paid by someone, and if those that need socially assisted or “affordable” housing can’t pay those costs, that means the rest of us pay. I don’t know about you, but I’m having enough trouble keeping afloat paying my own mortgage, property taxes, bills, etc… I simply can’t afford to pay more of my hard earned money so that someone else can get a break on the price of their house. I certainly didn’t get a break on mine.

    And who monitors who’s buying these “affordable” houses? Is there a screening process to ensure that those that actually need social assistance are buying these homes, or can anyone just walk in, buy them, then rent them out or flip them at a higher price for an immediate profit? All I know is someone’s going to win here, but it won’t be us. Don’t be fooled, just because some developers have been able to provide some level of “affordable housing” doesn’t mean the concept is actually working as intended.

    Maybe it’s time to face reality and just call it what it is. The GTA is no longer “affordable” and if someone can’t afford to live here, they should look elsewhere. Thanks to the Greenbelt, land and home values within the GTA are only going to increase with supply no longer meeting the demand. Canada’s a big country, there are plenty of smaller towns where home values are much less expensive. If you want affordable housing, look there.

    • James Schofield

      You left out option 4) the developer subsidizes the 10% affordable housing units from the substantial profits they reap off a new development.

      “if someone can’t afford to live here, they should look elsewhere” – Where do you want all the minimum wage service industry employees that pour your coffee to live? I suppose you’d have them commute two hours from Woodstock? No thanks – that’s not the kind of city I want to live in.

      • James

        I’ve got news for you… that’s already the kind of city we live in. That’s precisely how bedroom communities such as Burlington form in the first place. Toronto becomes too expensive, so people look outside of Toronto. Burlington’s become too expensive, so people look outside of Burlington. It costs well over half a million dollars to buy an entry level home in Burlington nowadays. How many minimum wage employees can afford that? Is it ideal? Of course not. Is it reality? Yes.

        • James Schofield

          You’re presuming everyone needs/wants to live in a single family home. The reality is that townhouses are the new starter home, and a lot of folks get by fine with apartments/condos. But even there, market rent can be prohibitively expensive for those at the lower end of the income scale.

      • Tom Muir

        The reality is more like the option 5), also overlooked.

        The city gives the developers OP and zoning amendments for more density than really allowed, that more than compensates for the “affordable” units.

        Frankly, the provincial Growth Plan is forcing a trajectory that is ruin all around, sooner or later. Just look at the numbers.

        • James

          The problem I have with “affordable housing” is that there is nothing stopping someone from buying up all the “affordable” units directly from a developer before the general public even gets a chance to buy them, then turning around and re-selling those units at double the price, either alone or in connection with the developer. Kind of defeats the entire purpose if you ask me.

          Providing these “affordable” units, if made available to the public, will also result in opportunistic buyers getting a great deal on a smaller unit, even though they’re financially well enough off to be able to afford a normal priced unit.

          I also can’t help but feel that by providing “affordable” housing, we are all playing into the hands of entitlement. Whether students fresh out of university, or immigrants new to the country, we are giving them a free ride so to speak, by letting them off the hook and not having to save up and work hard for years like the rest of us did. There’s no shame in living in a crumby apartment in a rough neighbourhood for a few years while you work hard for something better. I did it. Many of you did it. It’s good to have that hunger.

          I just think this “affordable housing” idea is ill conceived and won’t work as intended in the GTA. What’s next, grocery stores having to mark down 10% of their produce? Car dealerships having to cut the price in half for every 10th car they sell? Canada is a land of opportunity, where those with lower incomes can easily find affordable places to live. There’s a good life available for all of us in Canada, but for some, that life might not be in the GTA.