POLITICS
06/05/2019 14:53 EDT | Updated 06/06/2019 13:17 EDT

Doug Ford Opens Up Toronto To Taller Buildings And More Of Them

The province says the plan is necessary to increase the housing supply, but opponents call it a "giveaway" to developers.

artland via Getty Images
An aerial view of downtown Toronto, looking south from the Bloor-Yonge area.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government took the city of Toronto by surprise Wednesday when news broke the province is planning to allow taller buildings in more areas of the city.

The new, unexpected plan will expand areas in the city’s downtown and midtown where high-rises can be built, and will increase height limits in those areas. 

Several city councillors lambasted the provincial government on social media Monday, with downtown councillor Joe Cressy saying the plan turns the city into a “Wild West for developers.”

Cressy was among three councillors who signed a statement Wednesday declaring that the Ford government’s “disrespect and outright contempt for the City of Toronto and Torontonians is unlike anything we have ever seen. It is not acceptable. We will not stand for it.”

In one example of the changes being introduced, the corner of Bayview Ave. and Eglinton Ave. East will now allow towers of 20 to 35 stories, up from eight stories in the city’s plan for the midtown area, according to a report in the Globe and Mail. The area will soon be home to a station on the Eglinton Crosstown light rail, making it a priority area for densification.

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Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark says the province’s revisions to Toronto’s urban plan are necessary for the city to increase housing supply and improve affordability. But some on city council, including Coun. Josh Matlow of Toronto-St. Paul’s ward, are calling the plan a “giveaway” to developers, CBC News reports.

“We’re not saying no to development but we want development to grow in a way that supports the quality of life of residents,” CBC quoted Matlow as saying. 

Matlow says the provincial plan will reduce the city’s ability to negotiate community benefits from developers. The city often agrees to a building permit in exchange for some public benefit from the developer, such as green spaces or community centres.

The region’s real estate development industry has for the most part thrown its weight behind efforts to mandate densification, arguing that increasing housing supply in the city is the only way to improve home affordability, and the only way to avoid suburban sprawl as the city’s population grows.

But many opponents note taller buildings also mean fatter profit margins for developers.

Mayor John Tory highlighted that, once again, the government of Premier Doug Ford went ahead with a policy affecting Toronto without consulting the city first.

GTA housing market starting to favour sellers again

The changes were announced as the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reported home sales in Toronto jumped 18.9 per cent from the 15-year low for the month hit last year, while listings grew by only 0.8 per cent. 

“This means that market conditions continued to tighten in favour of sellers,” the board said in a statement.

The average price for a detached home in Greater Toronto rose 1.1 per cent over the past year, to $1.042 million, while the average condo rose 5.9 per cent, to $590,876. 

TREB describes this as a “sustainable” pace of house price growth, but said that “if, however, we continue to see growth in sales outstrip growth in new listings, price growth will accelerate.”

A recent study from Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development found Toronto is far and away the fastest-growing city in the U.S. and Canada, implying the city may not be building enough housing to meet needs. 

In its statement Wednesday, TREB called on policymakers “to address roadblocks preventing a more sustainable and diverse supply of housing reaching the market.”