Building code reforms help to create more safe, affordable

Tom Boland (
Sat, 22 May 1999 08:20:46 -0700 (PDT)

Could building code reforms help to create more safe, affordable housing in
your community?  If not, why not?  If so, what changes would you suggest?

See related article below:
FWD  Toronto Star - May 13, 1999


     By Paul Moloney - Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

 Toronto politicians have agreed to endorse basement apartments across the
city, a move that is expected to significantly ease the housing shortage.

 In a 44-8 vote, city council yesterday agreed to make zoning changes to
legalize the units, also referred to as nanny flats, granny flats,
apartments-in-houses and in-law suites.

 ``We have a housing crisis,'' said Councillor Mike Feldman, who brought
forward the motion to approve secondary units in all single and
semi-detached houses.

 Councillor Jack Layton noted the Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force
has recommended legalizing the units, in part because it would spur the
creation of new rental units at little cost.

 ``My hope is that we get additional units in the thousands. It will also
allow us to ensure existing units are safe, and can be checked out for fire
safety so tenants are protected,'' he said.

 In the past, this type of housing has been fought by ratepayer's groups
worried about property value losses and parking and noise problems.

 ``It's important that council recognized that even if some of the
ratepayers are not going to be happy, there's 100,000 apartments now, many
of them illegal,'' said Feldman (North York Spadina).

 He noted the city's rental vacancy rate is now 0.9 per cent - meaning only
9 units are available out of every 1,000.

By taking a strong stand on a sensitive political issue, the city will have
more credibility to demand senior governments fund construction of
affordable housing, Feldman said.

 ``We're asking the feds to throw in money, we're asking the province to
throw in money . . . I can say to them, `We did our bit, now you put your
hand in your pocket.' ''

 The 100,000 units that are out there represent one fifth of the entire
rental stock - although they're not allowed in many areas. The former York
and East York allow them; Etobicoke and North York permit them in some
areas; they are banned in Scarborough; Toronto forbids them in Rosedale,
Swansea, Forest Hill and parts of North Toronto.

 City planners will now prepare zoning bylaw changes to permit the units
city-wide and the proposals will go to public hearings of community
councils and standing committees.

 The process could take months, but the vote shows the will is there, said
Layton (Don River).

 Mayor Mel Lastman, a staunch foe of basement apartments when he was North
York mayor, yesterday supported the initiative while expressing concerns
about homeowner/tenant clashes. Council accepted his suggestion to seek
changes in provincial law making it easier for homeowners to evict
troublesome tenants.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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