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Using existing tools can have human rights benefits

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Legislation like the Planning Act and the Municipal Act, along with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 (PPS) and other Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing public documents offer many well-known tools to plan for affordable housing and make neighbourhoods healthy and inclusive.

Beyond planning, however, municipalities have limited tools for actually building affordable housing – they often lack the federal and provincial funding to make much-needed expansions of the affordable housing stock. Given these existing barriers, it is even more critical that municipalities apply the principles of the Code in their planning activities.

Municipalities can use existing planning tools when considering their human rights requirements. By increasing options for housing in a community, a municipality can also increase the opportunity to include many people whose low income is related to a Code ground.

Planning for affordable housing can also advance human rights. Here are examples of tools that municipalities are already using, which they can also apply to meet human rights goals.

Under the Planning Act, municipalities can:

  • secure affordable housing in exchange for increased height and density of a development
  • use Section 37 of the Act as an incentive-based system to authorize increases in the height and density of development otherwise prohibited by a zoning bylaw, in return for the provision of facilities, services or matters specified in the bylaw
  • reduce or waive planning application processing fees as a financial incentive to encourage affordable housing
  • reduce or exempt an applicant from parking requirements to promote affordable housing
  • use a Development Permit System to streamline approvals and reduce the time and costs needed to develop affordable housing

Under the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, municipalities can:

  • reduce fees/taxes or provide low-interest loans to groups seeking to build affordable housing
  • give full or partial exemption from growth-related development charges for affordable housing
  • pass a bylaw to prohibit and regulate the demolition or conversion of a residential rental property that contains six or more dwelling units to a purpose other than a residential rental (e.g., condominium).

These are just some of the many provincial laws that enable municipalities to promote and offer incentives to build affordable, equitable housing.

For more detailed information on these and other tools, refer to the Municipal Tools for Affordable Housing Handbook, available online at

As well, Affordability and Choice Today (ACT) provides practical information and grants to help local teams modify planning and building regulations in ways that can improve housing affordability and choice. Information on best practices and on how to apply for a grant is available at ACT has also released a guide for municipalities to address NIMBYism, called Housing in My Backyard: A Municipal Guide for Responding to NIMBY. 

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