City of Mississauga staff prepared a detailed response to the Report of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force that provides an analysis of the recommendations and considers the potential implications for Mississauga. Received by Council, the City’s response outlines serious concerns with Task Force recommendations that could adversely impact the quality of life in Mississauga without leading to improved housing affordability.
The response also includes a report card which categorizes the City’s position on each recommendation and offers detailed feedback for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to consider before introducing legislation.
“Mississauga thanks the Ontario Government for its commitment to finding solutions to the housing affordability crisis,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “As a City, we’re doing our part to increase the supply of housing and in particular affordable housing. We’re a leader in ‘on-time’ planning approvals and we’ve approved zoning for 20,000 units that could be built if developers wanted to. While we support some of the Task Force recommendations, several shift the responsibility for this problem solely on municipalities. I’m calling on the province to engage in meaningful conversation with cities before moving forward with any of these recommendations. Solving this crisis requires commitment from all levels of government, landowners, developers, builders, investors and landlords.”
Of the Task Force recommendations, there are 29 identified in the City’s response that could significantly impact the quality of neighbourhoods in Mississauga if enacted in legislation. These include recommendations that reduce municipal autonomy, limit community engagement, lower design standards, undermine the creation of complete communities and create a financial risk for the development of new infrastructure and parkland.
In particular, the staff response points to the following examples:
- Allowing increased heights and densities across the board will likely not lead to more housing or more affordable housing. To date, in Mississauga’s experience, allowing for unlimited heights and density in the downtown core has not led to major increases in supply or improved affordability.
- Recommendations aimed at speeding up the planning process such as reducing public consultation and decision-making time, may in fact have the opposite effect. For example, eliminating the site plan process could see issues transferred to the building permit stage, resulting in a slow down. The Task Force also doesn’t include recommendations acknowledging that applicants themselves are often the source of the delay.
- One-size-fits–all, province-wide urban design guidelines may result in a simple, standardized look and feel that ignores local context. Urban design helps support unique, livable and high quality communities as does heritage planning and conservation.
- Redeveloping any or all underutilized commercial and industrial properties may be detrimental to the development of complete communities and vibrant, local businesses. Consideration should be given to striking a balance in order to preserve affordable commercial properties.
- Reducing development charges and municipal fees will have a detrimental effect on the City’s ability to pay for the infrastructure, parkland and services required for new development. If these fees and charges are reduced, the City must increase taxes or reduce services.
“We’re taking action to reimagine Mississauga neighbourhoods, all while engaging the community and supporting development,” said Andrew Whittemore, Commissioner of Planning and Building. “We already allow second units within residential homes and are bringing forward policies to support gentle intensification and infill development in neighbourhoods to increase housing choices.”
The City supports the province’s commitment to reduce red tape and make it easier to live and do business in Ontario.
Whittemore added, “Mississauga is open to development and is working to drive continuous improvement. We were one of the first municipalities to introduce a web-based application review process which has reduced site plan review times by more than 55 per cent. The City also meets building permit approval timelines, set by the province, 95 per cent of the time.”
The City’s response outlines the actions Mississauga is already taking to support the province in creating more housing, a greater mix of housing and making home ownership and renting more affordable. City actions that support these recommendations include:
- Granting unlimited height and density permissions in the downtown core. These innovative permissions streamline and bring certainty to the development process, allowing a developer to build more quickly in this area.
- The City’s Increasing Housing Choices in Neighbourhoods study is looking at introducing different housing formats, such as garden suites or garage conversions and different living arrangements such as co-operative housing and home share.
- Actively planning for over 60 Major Transit Station Areas around existing or planned transit lines that will meet or exceed provincial growth-related targets.
- The City’s Parking Regulations Study is reviewing and reducing parking standards to better align with current transportation trends and intensification.
The City’s response also includes a list of nine tools the Minister could consider implementing that would empower municipalities and support affordable housing such as:
- Developing a mechanism to discourage invest-owner residential real estate and leverage the potential of provincially and federally owned land for affordable housing.
- Applying HST rebates for affordable housing, making revenue tools available to municipalities to raise funds for affordable housing and offering direct funding to municipalities to support middle-income workforce housing.
- Requiring a Registered Professional Planner to sign-off on planning reports prior to submission to speed up applications by improving their quality and completeness.
- Providing municipalities with the power to zone for residential rental tenure so that new multi-residential developments, particularly on large sites or at key strategic locations (transit stations), must include both rental and ownership housing.
- Expanding the City’s ability to obtain off-site works (such as streetscape and road improvements) from removal of Holding Provision applications, as well as Rezoning and Site Plan applications, which would reduce overall processing time and eliminate the need for additional applications.
- Extending the two year prohibition of new Official Plan Amendment requests from property owners/developers to five years.
- Implementing the ability to use zoning expiration regulations (use-it or lose it zoning) to realize the approved-but-not-built backlog units and to more efficiently allocate servicing capacity.
- Allowing Conditional Zoning to be used to mandate rental units or to provide an incentive for developers to build more quickly, rather than going through a time consuming Official Plan Amendment. This effort would help get housing supply on stream more quickly, whether affordable or not.
- Allowing for cash-in-lieu of Inclusionary Zoning, which would help municipalities lower the administration costs of doing Inclusionary Zoning for smaller redevelopment projects.
“The City is in favour of innovative financing tools to support affordable housing,” said Shari Lichterman, Commissioner of Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer. “However, there is no guarantee that waiving municipal fees and charges across the board would result in the creation of more affordable units or that developers would pass any of the savings on to new homeowners.”
A copy of the City’s response including the Task Force report card has been forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for consideration.
City of Mississauga Media Relations
905-615-3200, ext. 5232