Sudbury

Cities can force developers to add low-cost housing to building plans

Ontario is set to give cities new powers to compel real estate developers to include affordable housing when they build subdivisions and condo towers.
There are about 1,000 families waiting for geared-to-income units and many others also struggling to find places to live, a Greater Sudbury housing manager says. (CBC)

The province is set to give cities new powers to compel real estate developers to include affordable housing when they build subdivisions and condo towers.

The Promoting Affordable Housing Act revealed Wednesday would allow a city council to force a developer to change its blueprints to include social housing.

But exactly how that would work isn't known yet — with the fine print of the legislation to be written after a round of public consultations.

Laura Higgs, the executive officer for the Sudbury and District Homebuilders Association says this kind of change has been "in the wind" for a while and her members have been expecting it. 

"We do understand that we have a responsibility to play and we encourage the government to work with us in a partnership way."

Laura Higgs from the Sudbury and District Homebuilders Association says developers have been expecting this kind of change. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

'Strike the right balance'

Higgs said that means giving developers a break on certain permit fees and development charges, so their projects can still turn a profit — while the city gets more social housing.

Greater Sudbury's manager of community and strategic planning, Kris Longston, said it's unclear exactly how city planners would use these new powers.

"With all issues of planning, the key is to strike the right balance between promoting growth and making sure you have opportunities for affordable housing in the city."

Manitoba passed a similar law in 2013 but, so far, no cities have used it.

Greater Sudbury housing manager Denis Desmeules told CBC News there are about 1,000 families in the city waiting for geared-to-income units, and many others also struggling to find places to live.

"There are people who are even working and so on, but are having difficulties making enough money to cover a market rent or even be able to purchase a home," he said.

With files from Erik White, edited/packaged by Wendy Bird

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