Mississauga Shifting Affordable Housing Plans

Mississauga Planning and Development Committee (PDC) meetings are not usually exciting or riveting unless you're talking about a major development application like, say, a mosque (which really draws out the locals to vent their frustrations). This week's meeting was pretty sparsely attended.

However, there were two issues on the agenda that I believe are worthy of attention.

Rejection of Application (3085 Queen Frederica Drive, Mississauga)

This particular building is located behind a strip mall at the northwest corner of Dixie and Dundas. It is currently an 11 storey building with 73 rental units, and the application is requesting that it be converted from rental stock to a condominium.

In other words, the ownership of the building would transfer from one owner who rents out those 73 units to 73 individual condo unit owners. This may sound like a standard request from the developer, but the property is on a floodplain. Back in 2013, 3085 Queen Frederica Drive was one of those apartment buildings that experienced water damage from the flooding that year.

Nobody is stupid enough to approve an application to turn this building from rental to tenure (condominium), and entrenching home ownership in a property that is susceptible to flooding risks doesn't make much sense. Mississauga's planning department recommendation is that the application be refused. Here's the fun part that will inevitably follow. As the report states:

2. That Council direct Legal Services, representatives from the appropriate City Departments, and any necessary consultants, to attend any Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) proceedings which may take place in connection with the application, in support of the recommendations outlined in the report.

So it looks like the city of Mississauga is going to have its lawyers pay a little visit to the OMB, should the developer seek that option to overrule council's vote to turn down his application. Speaking of the developer, he did not choose to appear himself but sent a solicitor by the name of Jacqueline Knowles to represent him. She was there to 'clear up some misconceptions' that council and staff had, but she wasn't free from some misconceptions herself. Her claim that condo owners would have adequate insurance is clearly misguided; Councillor Chris Fonseca who represents Ward 3 (where this building is located) had several problems with getting claims paid for, so things are not always clear cut when it comes to the insurance issues pertaining to flooding.

Another interesting item?

Mayor Crombie says developers should no longer get money for affordable housing

The other main takeaway from this week's PDC was the review of the affordable housing program and several members of council debating the long existing policy of compensating developers for building affordable housing and whether or not that policy should continue the way it is.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that the policy needs to change and that Mississauga cannot keep giving developers money to build housing they're already making money on. Her response came after a consultant's report outlined the costs associated with enticing developers to build modestly priced units. The report estimated a required incentive per unit could cost between $94,000 and $482,000, depending on the size of the individual units, and that developers can get away with building something to the most minimally required standards and call it 'affordable.' Bryan Tuckey, President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) has stated without financial incentives, the cost of providing affordable housing will fall to new homebuyers.

Crombie said, "we know that the developers are going to go home pocketing a hefty amount of change, and more financial incentives just means that we are adding to that pot." Echoing those sentiments, Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish said, "I don't want to hear any more wonderful reports...I don't want to hear any more analysis of who is under-housed, who's suffering...I want to know what we're going to do to build a pool of money."

Maybe this council should have listened to their past head honcho, former mayor Hazel McCallion, who supported implementing a municipal land transfer tax in 2012 and using that money to pay for affordable housing. She told them just before her retirement, "you better do something now and pay for it, or do nothing and live with the problem." I don't think these councillors want to live with the problem, but perhaps since most of them might think about retiring in a decade or so, they might be procrastinating so as to let their successors deal with the issue.

Maybe the definition of 'affordable housing' itself needs to change. What is 'affordable' anyway? That meaning can vary amongst the wide spectrum of incomes, and if something is affordable to one person, it may not necessarily be affordable to another. Parrish suggested calling it 'middle income' housing because that's where most people's incomes are; the average middle.

What do you think of the proposal to redevelop 3085 Queen Frederica Drive to a condominium tenure from it's current status as a rental building? Good idea to do that on a floodplain? And do you think developers should keep getting money to build affordable housing?

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