Marty Staz: There is a looming housing crisis that city council can fix - but there isn't much time left.

opinionred 100x100By Marty Staz

January 6th, 2020



From everything we read, although still little of what we see, it would appear that 2019 has brought the kind of change to our City that we all expected when our new Council was elected. I’m talking about how our City will grow.

Side view - mid rise

Staz looking over mid rise development guidelines released by the Planing department.

But the question that I believe stands in the forefront, is it the kind of change that we need and want, and have the property alternatives for growth really been considered? I realize it was too late for three monster buildings downtown, but we still hear of the same thing being the main topics of discussion at City Hall, and now there is talk of approving a 27 floor tower on the football at Lakeshore and Martha in return for a small piece of parkland. The truth is all we ever hear of is high rise towers being the solution to our growth. We can’t even consider single detached homes being part of our growth solution.

We saw a grand total of 495 newly built detached homes in our City in 2019 which doesn’t come close to addressing the problem.

What about the “Missing Middle”? This is something I have advocated for in the past and it is something that should be considered as a solution to our population growth. It would provide mid-range and affordable housing and put the brakes on turning our City into a maze of high rise tunnels.

Staz on magazine cover

Marty Staz a Chamber of Commerce member most of his professional life.

In a study done by Evergreen and the Canadian Urban Institute, the Missing Middle describes a range of housing types between single-detached houses and apartment buildings that have gone ‘missing’ from many of our cities in the last 60 to 70 years. The difference for Burlington is that we are in the process of creating a City that WILL be losing its middle, and at our current rate a lot faster than 60-70 years.

To clarify, what I am really talking about is homes that range from town-homes, 4-6 storey apartment buildings, laneway homes and triplex, fourplex type of homes. Homes that are capable of providing the 3 bedroom homes that growing families will need. Go ahead and look at the proposals of the towers currently approved and see how many units provide anything over 2 bedrooms. Go ahead and ask the future generation of homeowners where their ultimate dream home lies.

It is definitely not on the 24th floor with 2 bedrooms. They want to be able to walk out their door to their driveway or to a backyard.

The city is more than just the Escarpment to the north and the lake to the south. It is the people in between that determine who we really are. And it takes more than a magazine saying we are the #2 city in the country doesn't make it so.

The Green Belt in the Escarpment does not permit residential housing except in the settlement areas of Lowville and Kilbride and even there development is very limited. Half of Burlington’s land mass is zoned rural. No affordable homes in this part of the city.

The other consideration is affordability which must include a balanced mix of owned and rental homes. Of course a big challenge for our City is that land prices in our area, since we are land locked by the Greenbelt, are certainly not coming down. This is the argument many put forth to give credence to the high-rise solution. It’s going to take everyone from the public, private and non-profit sectors to come together to take a much deeper dive into how our City looks in the next 50 years.

3 story walk up

Good housing in stable neighbourhoods – and affordable.

Missing middle 3 levels with patio

Housing has to be within a stable community – and affordable.

The bottom line here is that our City is at a crossroads.  We have already stepped across the line. Before it’s too late we need to make some hard decisions that will make people want to stay in our City and move to our City because they see a better place to live. Isn’t that what Burlington has always been about?

Marty Staz retired from the printing business got into real estate and then found himself a candidate in the October 2018 municipal election as a candidate in ward 1.  He is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce

Background link:

The Missing Middle report: Click here

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments to Marty Staz: There is a looming housing crisis that city council can fix – but there isn’t much time left.

  • Eve St Clair

    City council too busy saving the climate after declaring an emergency to even tackle housing issues

  • Alfred

    Marty I welcome you. You are a ray of light in an otherwise gloomy City. Unfortunately the majority of the voters in this City and many of the councilors and Mayor want nothing to do with anything other than single family homes being built in this City. As a matter of fact they don’t even like single family homes being built. You have indicated that 495 single detached homes have been built in Burlington in 2019. In reality only 50 homes have been built. According to the Burlington stats. And supported by the staff in building dept. (Public info). They have no interest in growth, job creation, Housing that is more affordable, different forms of housing or the missing middle. The mechanism that has to be in place is the Official plan that would allow this form of development to occur. The direction the Provincial Government is sometimes ignored in this community. Example: 20 years ago the council of this City signed into law an Official Plan. In the low density areas. Single family homes and semi-detached shall be permitted. The Council and staff have then 3 years to put in place by-laws. That would permit singles and semi-detached homes to be built. I challenge you to find in the low density area of this city. Which is probably 80% of the urban area lots that would permit the building of semi-detached homes as of right. Even though the Official Plan allows them City wide. Clearly the City has no interest in this type of housing. Let alone duplex, triplex or any of the other plexes.These types of housing are common in other Municipalities. Marty if you can get the Chamber of Commerce on board we can then make a joint delegation to council. The Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association have no interest in facilitating this as they have their eyes on the prize. The high density stuff. This would be in direct competition to them. If council fails to act as per their obligations under the Planning Act. The office of the Ombudsman and the Ministry of Housing have expressed an interest if all attempts in dealing with the City fail.

    • Steve Holman

      Alfred, I would like to better understand this post. As for semis and triplexes, is it the city with no interest or is it the builders not doing it? Are we seeing the city turn down these housing types on sites in which they are permitted?

  • Claudette Mancini

    Touche and Bravo!