Section 37: Securing Affordable Housing

The City of Toronto’s Official Plan articulates a vision in which housing choices are available for all people in their communities, and at all stages of their lives. Toronto’s quality of life, economic competitiveness, and social cohesion depend upon affordable and appropriate housing options. And yet, like so many desirable, rapidly growing cities, housing affordability is increasingly out of reach for many Torontonians. The reality is, there is no “quick fix” to address this challenge. Cities around the world struggle to provide affordable housing. I am increasingly convinced that a myriad of solutions are needed, using a variety of planning tools. I blogged about inclusionary zoning a few weeks ago, and before that I blogged about the Federal and Provincial role. The best examples of providing affordable housing in Toronto, such as the revitalized Regent Park and the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, have involved all three levels of government playing a clear role.

Section 37 of the Planning Act also has a role to play, and is a tool specific to Ontario municipalities. It can be used by planners to negotiate the integration of affordable housing into a new development. While the affordable housing units secured using Section 37 may seem small, this is reflection of the value of a typical Section 37 agreement. It’s important to note that this is different from a Development Charge, which is a fee collected from developers at the time a building permit is issued to pay for the cost of infrastructure required to provide municipal services (such as roads, transit, water and sewer infrastructure, community centres and fire and police facilities).

Following are some examples wherein Section 37 was used to secure affordable housing units – an approach being applied more and more in instances where it is deemed desirable to do so.

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Section 37: Supporting Toronto’s Growing Families

With our population growing and more parents choosing to raise their families in Toronto, access to daycare is a critical component of how we plan and grow our city. Section 37 of the Planning Act enables the City to secure contributions for development applications that exceed a site’s zoned height and density. At the Village Green Square development in Scarborough (near the intersection of Kennedy Road and Highway 401), Section 37 was used to require the developer to provide a non-profit child care facility for local residents. As part of the next phase of development, a second non-profit daycare facility is planned to be opened.

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Section 37: City Building in Action

Over the coming weeks, I will be featuring a series of built projects from across Toronto that were secured or funded through Section 37 of Ontario’s Planning Act.

Section 37 enables the City to secure local community benefits from development applicants seeking an increase in height or density. Community benefits from Section 37 must accrue to the local neighbourhood impacted by a specific development. Through this process, a wide range of benefits can be achieved, including heritage preservation, public art, affordable housing, recreation centres, child care facilities, park improvements, space for non-profits, and streetscape improvements. Section 37 plays a vital role in the city building process by delivering tangible benefits in neighbourhoods across Toronto.

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Section 37: Affordable Housing at Wychwood Barns

Wychwood Barns is truly a special place in Toronto. Located in a former streetcar maintenance facility near St. Clair and Bathurst, an engaged group of individuals helped transform the site into an innovative community cultural hub. Managed by the non-profit group Artscape, the complex includes heritage buildings, public green space, a greenhouse, farmers’ market, a beach volleyball court, offices for local community groups, and event space that accommodates cultural events.

Photo by Mario Giambattista

Photo by Mario Giambattista

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