Councillor calls for end to developers commandeering city sidewalks, streets
Developers say house prices could spike if they're denied public staging areas
Construction sites that engulf neighbouring sidewalks and roads creating traffic bottlenecks and serpentine pedestrian detours will be in the crosshairs at this week's Toronto city council meeting.
Midtown Coun. Josh Matlow wants city staff to look into the feasibility of forcing developers to use their own land — not public thoroughfares — as equipment staging areas.
He said the practice is one of the biggest causes of gridlock.
"Get off our roads, get off our sidewalks. Go build on your own property," Matlow said last week. "You make money over there, let us move around over here."
But developers say city policies that demand the highest densities possible in new residential developments are forcing them to build on every square inch they own.
Dave Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD-GTA, a group that speaks for developers, warns that if they're forced to use their own land as storage areas, the cost of building will increase. And that cost will be passed on to home buyers.
"One of our members indicated that could be anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 a unit," he said. Other developers will be tempted to get out of the home building business all together.
Besides, he said, the city actually makes money when developers take over sidewalks as staging areas, charging "rents" that can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the project.
He said the industry is prepared to work with councillors to find a compromise. But Matlow's motion "has been brought forward with no analysis, no consultation and no understanding of the impact it would have on the supply and affordability of housing in the GTA," according to Wilkes.
But Matlow said he's not convinced that forcing developers to use only land they own would scare home builders out of the market.
"It may cost the developers more money to do it but in reality the developer was a speculator who decided to make a bunch of money on a certain property," he said.
"Why should they just assume they should be able to take over our streets and our sidewalks.
"It's their right to develop, but it's our right to be able to move around our city, and that should be respected too."
City staff say there are currently 115 construction projects underway in Toronto that have overtaken roads or sidewalks.
Because Matlow's motion is being presented directly to council, it won't be considered unless he can get the support of two-thirds of councillors.
If he can't, the motion will be referred to the executive committee, and likely wouldn't come back to council until next year.