Toronto is mired in an affordable-housing crisis. As of June, almost 170,000 people were waiting for a place in some form of subsidized housing. If that weren’t enough, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s repair backlog was estimated at $862 million in 2012, and there are fears it could top $2.6 billion within a decade. In July, mayoral candidate Olivia Chow offered a solution she says will help bridge the widening housing gap: as mayor, she would ask developers to voluntarily set aside 20 percent of new residential tower developments for low-income renters, creating around 15,000 new, affordable units over four years. Chow says she would defer development charges on the affordable units for 10 years, or longer if the properties stay accessible to low-income renters (lest developers snap up the promised benefits and hike the rent), saving builders almost $12,000 per one-bedroom unit. Developers that improve existing tower sites would get different kinds of incentives too.
WOULD IT WORK?
In cities like Washington D.C. and San Francisco, there are what are known as “inclusionary zoning” rules—bylaws, often mandatory ones, that try to engineer roughly what Chow is proposing. In essence, inclusionary zoning tells developers to allocate a certain percentage of new residential units to moderate- or low-income people. In New York City, newly elected mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to implement mandatory inclusionary zoning.