The Ontario government has finalized its plan to allow for denser housing near transit hubs in Toronto’s downtown core and the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area.
“My message to that couple in their 20s or 30s that don’t see an opportunity around major transit hubs to live that I am providing them that opportunity to live there,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said on Wednesday.
Back in July 2018, the City of Toronto had made amendments to an official plan for the busy areas that allowed them to become denser than they are now but aimed to preserve a sense of “mixed communities,” featuring a range of housing densities, preservation and possible expansion of parkland. As well, an emphasis on developing new transit and cycling infrastructure in the downtown core was being sought.
But, the Progressive Conservative government, led by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has rejected the city’s plan, saying Torontonians want to “intensify around major transit stations.”
“It’s my intention today to modify Official Plan Amendments 405 and 406 to send a number of modifications back to the city to really reflect our government’s priorities,” Clark said. “Our government was elected last June and since then we’ve made significant investments in transit – $28.5 billion intention for transit improvements.”
Clark said the provincial government’s intention is to create more housing supply to support their investment in transit.
“We want to work with the city on inclusionary zoning to provide affordable housing opportunities around those major transit stations,” he said. “These modifications all reflect government priorities.”
“It’s going to provide more housing opportunity and we have to leverage that $28.5 billion transit investment. We have to ensure that we have people who live close to transit.”
The city’s original plan included buildings constructed immediately adjacent to Eglinton Station that were restricted to a height of 58 storeys on the northeast corner, 65 floors on the southeast corner and between 27 and 37 floors on the northwest corner, as well as generally lower height restrictions on areas flowing out in each direction from the intersection.
The changes made by the Ontario government will now allow buildings surrounding the intersection to reach up to 35 floors.
Clark rejected this matter as being another example of the provincial government overstepping on Toronto affairs, following Toronto’s city council being cut nearly in half and the upload of the city’s subway system to the province.
“This file was posted on the environmental registry for 90 days so it was there for three months so it was there from the beginning of August to the end of November,” he said. “It was there for public comment.”
“So again, we had a consultation period so it should come as no surprise that we want these official plan amendments to reflect government priorities and that is exactly my intention.”
Clark said the province wants to “continue working with the city” going forward.
“I made a statement yesterday after a meeting I had with the deputy mayor that we want to continue to work with the city on development around major transit stations and obviously inclusionary zoning is one tool that the city feels very strongly about using to create more affordable housing around transit and I support that but this decision is final and is not appealable.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was told of the rejection by the province over text message on Tuesday night and was “mystified” as to why he was not notified prior.
“I think when it comes to a matter of serious documents prepared by our professional planners after years of consultation, that the least they could do when they send those back is a proper consulations and at least a phone call with the mayor just saying ‘we are going to send this back, here’s why and we’re willing to sit down and talk to you about it,” he said. “But, none of that happened.”
A joint statement from city councillors Joe Cressy, Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam regarding the matter said the city had spent seven years developing “a new master plan for downtown Toronto” that helps it remain “sustainable and livable.”
“Without any warning or consultation, reports have surfaced today the province is about to impose a different plan on us,” the statement read.
“More than 250,000 people currently live in downtown Toronto. Over the next 25 years that population is projected to double to 500,000 people, not including those who work and visit the downtown.”
The city councillors said the province is willing to throw out their hard work “in favour” of a few well-connected developers.”
“This provincial decision would fundamentally reshape downtown for the next century.”