Council split on removing mandatory separation distances between group homes in Brampton

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Published November 2, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Brampton City Council is split on adjusting by-laws related to group homes in Flower City.

During a Planning and Development Committee meeting on Monday evening (November 1), members of the committee debated the recommendation from City staff to amend the current by-laws due to a recent provincial direction to ensure municipalities’ by-laws are not in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

As a result of the Ontario Human Rights report, staff suggested amending Brampton by-laws regarding group homes, specifically removing distance restrictions—under current City by-laws new group homes cannot be established within 120 metres of existing group homes.

Staff also recommended adjusting capacity limits for certain group homes. Current by-laws restrict the number of residents to four to six people, and staff recommended amending this to three to 10 people.

The recommendation also included removing the requirement that those who wish to establish a new group home in Brampton first attend a public meeting with local councillors.

During the meeting, John Nunziata, legal council for an association of homeowners in Brampton suggested these proposed changes will adversely impact property values.

Nunziata also suggested removing the distance requirement for group homes could lead to an influx in one particular area, which would have adverse effects on the community, especially regarding parking.

Pat Fortini, Regional Councillor for Wards 7 and 8 also expressed concern with the proposed changes, suggesting lower property values in Brampton coupled with no restrictions regarding locations would lead to an influx in group homes in certain areas.

“We need to maintain a distance between them,” he said. “We need to keep our by-laws or else every home is going to turn into a group home—we already have enough problems.”

Fortini compared the proposed changes from City staff to Brampton’s by-laws to recent changes made in Mississauga, but the information wasn’t accurate according to Bob Bjerke, Director of City Planning and Design for the City of Brampton.

“The current by-law that’s enforced does not have a separation distance, does not have parking requirements, and does not provide any other restrictions for group homes in single detached dwellings,” Bjerke said.

Charmaine Williams, Regional Councillor for Wards 7 and 8 supported the changes, suggesting previous by-laws were discriminatory, something which was supported by the Ontario Human Rights report, on which the changes were based.

“If our by-laws stipulate houses have to be separated from each other, or we’re having a lot of input from people who do not want to have these homes in their neighbourhood, we’re actually discriminating against people with special needs from getting housing,” she said. “Why should individuals have to move to places that aren’t community-oriented just because certain members don’t want them there?”

Williams proposed a motion to bring the new changes to council for a decision on November 3, which would include the proposed amendment to prevent distance limits between group homes.

However, the vote was split—Williams; Jeff Bowman, Regional Councillor for Wards 3 and 4; Harkirat Singh, Regional Councillor for Wards 9 and 10; Doug Whillans, Regional Councillor for Wards 2 and 6; and Michael Palleschi, Regional Councillor for Wards 2 and 6 voted in favour.

However, Fortini, Gurpreet Dhillon, Regional Councillor for Wards 9 and 10; Paul Vicente, Regional Councillor for Wards 1 and 5; Rowena Santos, Regional Councillor for Wards 1 and 5; and Martin Medeiros, Regional Councillor for Wards 3 and 4 voted against.

Due to the fact the vote was tied, the motion failed, and council will not be able to amend the by-laws at the next meeting.

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