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Saving affordable flats

Toronto Star - February 25, 2002

Advocates of affordable housing in Toronto have something to celebrate. The city can now put the brakes on the demolition of rental apartments.

Divisional Court has just ruled that the City of Toronto has the right to pass a bylaw limiting the ability of developers to demolish apartments or convert them to condos. This overturns a decision by the Ontario Municipal Board, which argued the city did not have the power.

The city needs the bylaw to protect Toronto's dwindling stock of affordable rental housing. Rents are rising, the supply of decent housing is shrinking and people are being driven out of their homes and out of the city. It's not enough for Toronto to build some new affordable housing; council has to protect what stock it has.

Chiefly, this ruling will give the city a bargaining chip to use with developers who want to tear down older rental buildings.

Council might agree, for instance, to let a developer replace a four-storey building with a nine-storey one if the builder agrees to offer a certain number of affordable units. It's a good trade off.

This victory is particularly sweet in light of the Ontario government's move in December to derail a private member's bill that echoes the court ruling. Still, the municipal board plans to review the city's proposed law, against a new set of rules that govern planning criteria.

The board has not been a friend of Toronto's tenants.

So far, it has approved the net loss of 382 rental units. Demolition applications put 156 more at risk. And 1,700 units are threatened by pending applications for redevelopment and condo conversion.

The battle goes on to preserve afforable housing.

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