The big news this week in Toronto planning & development is the province’s decision to approve three downtown development projects using a tool known as a “ministerial zoning order.” The impetus for doing this was to speed up the approval and delivery of about 1,000 affordable housing units (along with about 2,000 market-rate units).
The province has made it clear that it wants to do what it can to reduce red tape and unnecessary delays when it comes to building new affordable housing. But this, not surprisingly, upset a number of local councillors who feel the province is overstepping and not allowing the city to govern its own city building affairs.
Alex Bozikovic’s view in the Globe and Mail this week was: hey, maybe that’s not so bad. The planning process is painfully slow (and political). And Toronto is going to need a lot more housing over the coming years and decades. So why not speed up its delivery? Especially when there’s an affordable housing component and the architecture is exemplary.
The reality is that our housing delivery system is rife with tensions. A big part of the process is predicated on local voters, who already live in a particular place, opining on their own interests and on the interests of people who don’t yet live there. The incentives in place are anything but aligned.
We can debate which level of government should have more power and what might be considered an unnecessary delay, but what is clear to me is that it should not take 2-5 years to get new housing approved in this city.
If councillors cannot deliver what they need to in a speedy fashion and someone else can, they should either put up or shut up. The unproductive whining only serves to demonstrate that they’re not very good at accomplishing much of anything, except grandstanding.
There is nothing like a little bit of friendly competition to make things move in the right direction.