How Brampton Can Solve its Affordable Housing Crisis

Brampton’s current lack of affordable housing has been caused in part by the endless amounts of detached housing, geared towards people of middle to upper income levels. There just aren’t any cheap options.

A significant segment of people in Brampton have to rent due to the lack of affordability, and aside from apartment buildings built in the 60s and 70s, housing is limited to second units and basement apartments in detached housing. Demand isn’t keeping up with supply, which means housing can be limiting for people of all household and income types in the city.

The best way to lower the price of housing, both owned and rented, is to build, build, and build a more diverse range of units. Limited housing availability increases the cost of housing, for both subsidized housing and market rate housing. So the city needs to not only encourage development of housing, but a more diversified set of options, not just single detached homes. Think apartments, condos, small townhouses.

Peel’s 8 year-long housing waitlist could be reduced if a more affordable market rate was available. It would allow the region to allocate funds to renting units in existing buildings or to better support those in need of emergency housing, such as the homeless or victims of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault.

Low vacancy rates and low rental stock can’t be solved by Brampton and Peel alone. With that, Bramptonist has compiled and researched planning tools and methods that the city and region could use right now.

Inclusionary Zoning

Back towards the beginning of December, the province approved a new form of zoning called inclusionary zoning (IZ). IZ would allow the city to zone areas with the requirement that a certain percentage built has to be dedicated to affordable housing. While the details of the new zoning law haven’t been released, city council should direct Planning & Infrastructure staff to work with their provincial counterparts to understand the new law and create new bylaws to enable this.

Developers and existing residents may not like this, for reasons including stigma and discrimination against low-income people, and lower profit. The province has recognized this and will prevent inclusionary zoning appeals at the Ontario Municipal Board.

This is the easiest way for the city to create affordable housing units, and doesn’t rely on city or regional coffers to enable, aside from staffing hours that are already allocated for the planning process.

It could also create mixed-income communities, allowing for the reduction of concentrated poverty, and the rise of better opportunities for all residents, like with the well-publicized case of the Regent Park Regeneration program.

Upzone Along Major Corridors

Currently, some of the primary transit corridors in the city have zoning that doesn’t reflect their potential. Portions of Queen Street, Main/Hurontario Street, Steeles Avenue, Bovaird Drive, Dixie Road, Kennedy Road, Mississauga Road, and Bramalea Road are designated as intensification corridors in official and secondary plans, but the zoning map of the city hasn’t been updated across many of these corridors.

This would signal to developers of all kinds that Brampton is willing to host some higher density developments. It would also cut parts of the red tape and bureaucratic process that developers have to go through to build in the city, reducing the actual construction time from concept to handing over keys to future residents.

Create Smarter Second Unit Policies

Did you know that every second unit in the city is legally required to have a parking spot? While many potential renters may have vehicles, there are many households that don’t need a car and may commute by transit, biking, or walking. But the parking restriction means that many illegal units will continue to be unregistered.

A smart suggestion would be for the city to loosen this parking requirement within walking distance of major transit corridors, like Queen Street or Bovaird Drive. Renters in second units in these areas would be told upfront that there is no parking available, unless otherwise stated.

Stop Opposing Higher Density Developments

There’s no point in the city upzoning lands and encouraging taller and/or denser developments if council is going to let existing residents steamroll over every proposed plan, bucking to screams of “residential character will change!” Cities change, have always changed, and unless you live in a historical neighbourhood, which tend to be denser and conducive to low-rise dense housing anyways, one shouldn’t expect their neighbourhood to remain “stable.”

A case in point is the bitter battle over highrises in Heart Lake. The area was always proposed to be a mix of housing stock, and land uses, similar to the area around Bramalea City Centre. Building high rises in Heart Lake would have diversified the housing stock, allowing those who don’t want to have to deal with yards and driveways to enjoy the Heart Lake lifestyle. It might have been possible that some of the condos may have been rented, but should the Heart Lake community with its better amenities be only for those who can afford an expensive home?

If council really wants to commit to building housing that ill benefit current and future residents of all incomes, it needs to avoid bucking to every NIMBY (not in my backyard) protest against higher density. That’s not to say an apartment building should tower over the suburbs, but that townhouses of all kinds and low-to-midrise apartments can and should be welcomed and accepted.