Developers attack Toronto's affordable rental housing policies

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 21:51:26 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.thestar.com:80/thestar/editorial/toronto/990720NEW05_CI-OMB20.html
FWD  Toronto Star - July 20, 1999

     DEVELOPERS IN SHOWDOWN WITH CITY ON HOUSING LAW


     LOW-RENT APARTMENTS ARE AT STAKE DURING BOARD HEARINGS

     By Paul Moloney
     Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

The City of Toronto's efforts to preserve affordable rental housing have
come under attack.

 Developers will tell an Ontario Municipal Board hearing tomorrow that the
city's recently enacted housing protection policies are illegal.

 Applications to tear down about 1,500 apartment units have been stalled by
the policies, including a 246-unit, two-tower complex on Tweedsmuir Ave.,
in the Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave. W. area, owned by Goldlist
Properties Inc.

[INSERTED QUOTE]
`At the end of the day, preserving the status quo is not going to help at
all. Our argument would be that unless you can start to renew some of the
(housing) stock, you're going to run into a real problem.' -- Lawyer Jane
Pepino

 Goldlist wants to build 286 condominium units on the site, said lawyer
Jane Pepino, who argues that anti-demolition policies will only lead to a
deteriorating housing stock.

 ``At the end of the day, preserving the status quo is not going to help at
all,'' Pepino said yesterday. ``Our argument would be that unless you can
start to renew some of the stock, you're going to run into a real problem.

 ``Balconies may not be falling off today, but they may well be 15 years
from now.''

 Advocates of the city's initiative say there's widespread agreement that
homelessness will worsen if low-cost housing isn't preserved.

 ``If our laws are struck out, it will produce a flood of demolition and
condominium conversion of our existing affordable apartments,'' said
Councillor Jack Layton (Don River).

 ``There's no new affordable housing being built, and the percentage of
people with very low incomes is rising,'' Layton said. ``The net
consequence is people in the streets.''

 Councillor Joe Pantalone (Trinity Niagara), who chaired the committee that
steered the policies through city council, where they were approved by a
vote of 41-7, predicts ``total disaster'' if they're struck down.

 ``If you think we've got a homeless problem now, you ain't seen nothing
yet, because it means affordable rental stock will be put into jeopardy,''
he said. ``The units on the affordable end of the scale will be the first
victims because landlords could make more money by knocking them down.''

 The city's policies took effect April 15 in the midst of a rental housing
shortage that has seen the vacancy rate drop to 0.9 per cent, or only nine
units available for rent out of every 1,000.

 ``It is obviously in response to a real crisis,'' said Paul Bedford, the
city's chief planner. ``Nobody wants to see buildings demolished.''

 Bedford said if the municipal board sides with developers, it could have
wide-ranging impacts for every Ontario municipality experiencing shortages
of affordable rental housing.

 ``It's a serious attack on any municipality's authority to develop and
implement housing policies,'' Bedford said. ``Certainly, people are going
to be watching this.''

 The Fair Rental Policy Organization of Ontario, representing apartment
owners and managers, has joined the challenge because of potential
province-wide repercussions.

 After public hearings held by Pantalone's committee, the city amended its
official plan to discourage demolition and prevent rental apartments from
being converted to condos.

 Pepino said she will argue that tenant protection measures fall within the
jurisdiction of the provincial government, not municipalities. Toronto's
actions are invalid because only the province can protect tenants from
demolition or conversion to condos, she said.

 The municipal board has set aside five days to hear legal arguments,
wrapping up next Tuesday

END FORWARD

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