This website is dedicated to promoting the use of inclusionary housing practices in Canada.
It is intended for those wishing to learn generally more about the subject, as well as those looking specifically to develop and implement productive programs.
It consolidates information relevant to Canada on inclusionary practices from a variety of sources and in a variety of ways. Included in its contents are the following:
- a description of typical inclusionary housing practices (see “How It Works”).
- a number of case studies of representative inclusionary programs in the US, and their nearest equivalents in Canada (see “Case Studies”).
- a library of recent and relevant articles from both American and Canadian sources (see “Resources”).
- a review of the current legislative situation in three provinces of Canada (see “Legislation”).
- a list of individuals and organizations, mainly from Ontario, that have expressed support for inclusionary housing practices (see “Who’s For It”)
- an examination of some of central issues raised by the inclusionary practices (see “Issues”).
- a glossary of many of terms associated with these practices (see “Glossary of Terms”).
This site is meant to be open to the input and contribution of others (see “Contact/Comment/Question”).
What is inclusionary housing?
Inclusionary housing programs are municipal programs that use the development regulations and approval process to oblige private developers to provide a portion of affordable housing within their new market projects.
The policies represent a fundamentally different way to providing affordable housing than the conventional social housing programs used almost exclusively to date in Canada. Those programs essentially rely on financial subsidies provided by the provincial and/or federal governments. In contrast, inclusionary programs rely solely on the concessions coming out of the regulatory process.
Inclusionary zoning is one particular form of inclusionary housing practices. It is associated with the US, where it was first introduced in the early1970s, and is now used in at least 300 communities, and perhaps over 400, in a dozen or more states.
Inclusionary zoning merits special attention because it has a proven track record in providing affordable housing. It operates under a commonly used set of rules and procedures that have been well-honed after years of experience. These practices in the main could be readily adopted in this country. Even if not fully replicated, that experience offers many lessons that should be heeded here.
There are no equivalent programs in Canada. Some Canadian cities – including Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto – have developed inclusionary programs to support the development of mixed-income communities, but these are more limited in scope and effectiveness than inclusionary zoning as used in the US.
While not all inclusionary housing programs are the same, in order to be effective, they largely adhere to the following key characteristics:
- engaging private developers to build and provide housing at a below-market price or rent.
- providing housing that is affordable on a long-term or permanent basis to succeeding owners or renters.
- providing affordable housing within market housing developments and not on separate sites or in different locations.
- relying on concessions available through the regulatory process (like density bonuses and fee rebates) – and not financial subsidies – to reduce the cost burden on the developers for providing the affordable housing.
- operating under fixed and non-negotiable rules that treat all developers in a consistent, equitable and transparent way.
Why inclusionary housing?
There are number of compelling reasons why inclusionary housing practices, and inclusionary zoning specifically, should be used in this country.
- These practices have been proven to be effective ways in providing affordable housing.
These practices, it is important to stress, do not rely upon government funding to produce affordable housing. They not compete for the scarce dollars upon which conventional programs critically rely. Instead, they represent an alternative and supplementary way of providing affordable housing that adds to the tools available to municipalities.
- They help to create integrated and mixed-income communities.
Under these practices, affordable housing will be built virtually everywhere market housing is built. Over time, that means affordable housing will be made available widely across the city, giving people a much wider choice of places to live, including closer to where they work.
- They provide for a greater variety and diversity of affordable housing.
The scarce government funding has been focussed – and rightly so – on helping the homeless and others in the greatest need. But, as a consequence, many other affordable housing needs are being overlooked. For example, due to rapidly rising house prices, many moderate-income families can no longer afford to buy new homes in their own communities. Inclusionary practices allow municipalities to meet these and other local needs left unmet by conventional programs.