Last night at Public Planning, I listened carefully to the comments made by all sides. Our residents, the applicant, and my council colleagues around the table…. And yet, I can’t help but think that this specific issue before us – Town Council deliberating the development application for 271 Holladay Drive – speaks to the urgent need for local municipalities to have greater autonomy over land use planning decisions. If you listen to comments from the CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association regarding the Province’s recently announced, “taskforce on housing affordability”, it would seem that the province, real estate and development industry think that we – council, residents, community members – shouldn’t have any say in this decision. That any development that “increases availability” should just be greenlit regardless of whether it meets a local municipality’s official plan or community vision.
Now, the application that was before us is an example of why we as a municipality should have the autonomy over local planning decisions. The application proposes a 6-story purpose-built rental on a main artery… At first blush this sounds good. It meets all the asks of the Province… Intensification, rentals, and increased supply which the Province believes will provide more affordability….. But when we look at this from a local level, we have an application that is proposing double the density and double the Height of what was envisioned through our Towns zoning bylaw. There are other locations that are zoned for this purpose and this density. …But not here.
Further, while the application does propose rentals we have heard they will be boutique rentals….So are the rentals affordable housing? Doesn’t appear so. Frankly, what does “affordable” mean? I have yet to hear an applicant provide a clear description of what they mean by that term. If we were to approve this application – change the zoning and allow overdevelopment… development that does not conform to our Town plans… How does that benefit our community….. This proposed increase in height and density will do little if anything in providing affordable housing in our Town or an appropriate development for our community…
I couldn’t support this application in its current form and Council agreed as the decision to send this application to a future Public Planning meeting was unanimous…. I am hopeful that the applicant has heard this Council loud and clear and will take this time to work with the municipality and the residents to achieve an application that is in keeping with our Towns vision and provides a benefit to our community
As a final comment, given the province and development industry’s focus on “shovels in the ground”, local Councils will see more and more applications like this – that ask for increased density in areas not zoned for it rather than simply building where it is zoned for it. Municipal councils see planning at the ground level, we know what our Towns and cities need, and we have developed Official plans to achieve that. Increasing availability of housing through overdevelopment, does nothing to increase affordability of housing and it does nothing to increase accessibility of housing. Houses aren’t widgets. You can’t achieve economies of scale by simply adding more. Soundbite solutions won’t solve our affordability crisis. Our communities need pathways to homeownership that are community focused, and community led.