Inclusionary zoning is a powerful tool at the City’s disposal to create more affordable housing. A strong inclusionary zoning policy would ensure that new builds have permanent affordable units, based on a household’s income. In order to have an impact on the housing and homelessness crisis in Ottawa, a strong Inclusionary Zoning policy would ensure a baseline of 20% to an eventual target of 30% of new units would be affordable to households with modest income, and that a portion of these units reserved for households making under $24,000 per year.
Comments on the Staff Report: Inclusionary zoning status update and direction
The staff report takes some steps forward but does not go far enough to have a significant impact to create new affordable housing.
First, the proposed Inclusionary Zoning policy applies only to the very limited number of “Protected Major Transit Service Areas (PMTSAs) and excludes areas where we are seeing major renovictions such as Vanier and Herongate. We would recommend that staff track where renovictions, demovictions and tenant displacement occur and consider expanding the areas where Inclusionary Zoning applies to offset the loss of affordable housing where it is happening now.
Next, the report proposes that 10% of the unit gross floor area be developed as affordable. The Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa supports using building area as the metric rather than the percentage of units. Additionally, the report proposes that this percentage may vary by area from 20% in some areas to 0% in others. We would recommend that 10% should be the baseline minimum and that this percentage should grow over time to a target of 30% of the building area to be developed as affordable. Additionally, while the report makes no recommendations for unit size and bedroom counts for units developed through Inclusionary Zoning we would recommend the same distribution of unit sizes and bedroom counts for the development as a whole
The report recommends that Inclusionary Zoning not apply (at first) to purpose-built rental, to encourage new rental development, although the SHS report commissioned by the City concludes Ottawa’s new rental market can support set-aside up to 10%. We would recommend that the Inclusionary Zoning policy apply to new rentals where there is up-zoning, and, as previously mentioned, that a baseline of 10% should grow over time to 30%. Additionally, we recommend that the City develop a clear path for a non-profit housing role to meet the needs of households making less than $24,000 per year, who are not contemplated in the Inclusionary Zoning report and who face the most significant housing precarity.
Non-profit role for deeper affordability:
The staff report states that the levels of affordability anticipated through Inclusionary Zoning will not target households in core housing need, but is aimed at those in the 60th income decile. For ownership units, this currently includes households with an income of $117,109 per year or less. For rental households only, this includes households with an income of $64,456 per year or less. In order for this policy to have the greatest impact on Ottawa’s housing and homelessness emergency, the City must leverage it to create deeper affordable housing.
Although the report discourages the creation of offsite units, we would recommend that the City contemplate an assigned value for the Inclusionary Zoning units that could become a cash contribution to a non-profit housing development within the same PMTSA. The transfer of assets to non-profit ownership or long-term lease, or a cash contribution toward a non-profit development, could significantly increase the chances that units will become more affordable over time and could ensure permanent affordability. The ability of non-profits to access additional grant funding and subsidies would leverage the Inclusionary Zoning contribution into a broader range of affordability options that includes households in core housing need.
Altogether, the staff report takes some steps forward but does not go far enough to have a significant impact to create new affordable housing and address the housing and homelessness emergency. This is an important opportunity to make systems-level change toward ending homelessness, and I would encourage members of the Planning Committee and Community and Protective Services Committee to push for a strong Inclusionary Zoning policy.
Thank you for this opportunity.