Hundreds of US cities have rules to ensure inclusive, healthy communities: Why not here???


Hundreds of US cities, and a number of US states, have inclusionary housing planning policies that ensure that a fixed percentage of all new homes are affordable to low and moderate-income households. It’s no surprise that private developers in Toronto are upset at the thought that such a sensible idea would be imported to our city and province (“Developers balk at affordable-unit idea”, Toronto Star, March 10). After all, developers expressed concern over the past two decades whenever big cities and small towns as diverse as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Burlington, Vermont, introduced their inclusionary housing plans. Montgomery County, just outside Washington DC, one of the richest communities in the US, has the longest-running inclusionary housing practice in America. It has generated more than 12,500 new affordable homes. Developers in Montgomery County, like others through the US, have discovered that: (1) they still make healthy profits from their developments thanks to cost-offset mechanisms in the plans; and, (2) inclusive housing projects make for vibrant and healthy communities – and, who wouldn’t be in favour of that?

In our research, the Wellesley Institute has looked at inclusionary housing practices in big cities and small towns across the United States, and found many successful models. The latest forecast from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation projects that construction will start on 68,400 new homes as of February (seasonally-adjusted, for all of Ontario) – just about the highest number since the start of the recession in October of 2008. A US-style inclusionary housing policy(designed and administered by municipalities based on planning authority granted by the province) would ensure that at least 10,000 of those would be available to low, moderate and middle income households.

The latest RBC Economics housing affordability survey reports that Toronto households need a qualifying income of $65,400 just to get into the bottom of the ownership market in a standard condominium. Statistics Canada tells us that 52% of all the households across Toronto earn less than that. An inclusionary housing policy is one important part of a comprehensive affordable housing plant to ensure that everyone has access to a healthy, affordable home.