Just how is Burlington going to create the housing people can afford? There is a process and it is complex

By Pepper Parr

May 13th, 2022


Part 1 of a four part series

Every month the Rocca Sisters Team sends out a report on housing sales – both condominiums and ground based homes.

Their most recent report was published earlier this week.  See the link below

Housing is all about dollars for the buyers and the sellers and the real estate community.

The Rocca people are at that ground level where people feel what is taking place.

The bureaucrats and the politicians, the people who create policies, make changes to the Official Plan and the bylaws that set out what can be built where and by whom.

That level is quite a bit more complex.

This development did not require approval by city council – it met the Official Plan requirement and applicable zoning bylaws. The city does have site plan approval and the right to include inclusionary zoning rules which cannot be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal

Burlington is going through provincially mandated intensification.

The planning department staff has mushroomed to double what it was a year and a half ago.

Development applications at one point overwhelmed staff – so much so that the city had to create an Interim Control Bylaw which halted all development in the Urban Growth Centre – that boundary that has very few straight lines and changed frequently.

The Interim Control Bylaw is no longer with us, the Urban Boundary is now cast in stone and the bureaucracy runs much more smoothly.

Don’t take that to mean there isn’t all that much happening.

Alison Enns, planning lead of a team of planners putting together a Housing Strategy that will be presented to Council in June.

There is a Steering Group made up of Senior Staff who serve as oversight with what gets done at the Housing Strategy Group that is headed up by Alison Enns. This is the group that has been holding virtual on line meetings for close to a year; they also love surveys. They have gotten into the habit of doing very small mini surveys during the virtual events to get a sense as to how their audience is reacting to the work they are doing.

The work is very technical, complex and necessary. Building a community is a lot more than cement trucks, steel girders and cranes arriving at a construction site.

There is also a Working Group on Housing. This group is radically different than the Housing Strategy Group – it is made up of volunteers that were screened before being part of the Group. They do quite a bit of their work offline – they have in the past limited public participation in some of their events..

Those three levels are the basics of how plans for creating the housing that has to be built actually gets done.

At the very bottom of the hierarchy of groups involved in housing is the work being done by the planners who are putting the final pieces together for the MTSA sites. Major Transportation Service Areas are basically the GO stations.

The critical important element in the MTSA’s is the ability to include inclusionary zoning.

These were first call transportation hubs – and there were four of the. The one located in downtown Burlington at the bus terminal was not much more than a place where people could buy bus tickets. It was enough for a developer with a smart lawyer to convince the then OMB that the developer should be permitted to build a 26 story structure that is currently going up floor by floor.

Inclusionary zoning, also known as inclusionary housing, refers to municipal and county planning ordinances that require a given share of new construction to be affordable by people with low to moderate incomes.

Inclusionary zoning typically creates housing for households earning too much to be eligible for social housing but not enough to be able to afford market rents or prices. These “low- to moderate-income households” generally fall between the 30th and 60th percentile of the income distribution.

All three are about 1000 yards from each other.

The developers have focused on high end condominiums on choice close to the lake properties. No affordable housing those buildings.

Public pressure and a lot of concern on the part of anyone who is looking for a place to live has brought Burlington to where it is in terms of creating housing people can afford.

This is part 1 of the series the Gazette is doing on the progress that has been made to resolve the housing problem

There is more to come.

Related news stories:

The Rocca SIsters – price report

How a transit station resulted in a high rise no one wanted.

CORE gets to build in a site that could have been a spectacular location.


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