We all know there is a housing affordability crisis in Newmarket. 

Redwood-onYonge -on old Slessor site
Redwood on Yonge. On the old Slessor site.

The question is: what can we do about it?

In 2016 a fifth of all residential property up for sale in Newmarket was bought as an investment according to a recent article in Macleans. 

Where does this leave the people who want to buy or rent a property to live in? They are being run out of town by speculators who are pricing homes out of the reach of thousands of local people.

Last week, in a bid to address the issue, the Province announced it was:

“Paving the way for more affordable housing by giving municipalities the ability to require that affordable units are created in new residential developments.

“Inclusionary zoning is a planning tool that allows municipalities to require developers to include affordable housing units in residential developments…Under the new regulations, municipalities will be able to mandate that affordable units for low-and-middle income families are included in new housing developments to create mixed-income communities.” 

This is welcome progress but we are not going to see the results tomorrow or, indeed, any time soon. There will be more hoops to jump through before we get there.

Big but unaffordable 

At the moment, the Town has on its plate two very big planning applications which, together, will deliver hundreds of new housing units. 175 Deerfield Road – at Davis and Parkside Drive – promises 462 units in two 15 storey towers and one 9 storey tower. (Deerfield details here at page 178). 

John Taylor with Rose Corporation's Andrew Webster at the open house on 26 February 2018

York Region wants 25% of new development along the Yonge/Davis corridors to have affordable housing with 35% in the so-called Provincial Urban Growth Centre – basically around the intersection of Yonge and Davis.

The developer, the Rose Corporation, has told the Town that they are:

“prepared to meet the Town’s affordable housing target of 25% of the units being at or below the price threshold – if certain financial incentives are provided.”

They want the same kind of deal they negotiated for 212 Davis Drive, sweeteners which deferred Development Charges for three years as well as application fees and much else. The rentals there go from $1,505 to over $2,270 per month.

Redwood on Yonge (on the old Slessor Square site) will have 527 rental apartments in three towers. There are currently no plans for any of the apartments to be marketed as “affordable”. The Town is no doubt in discussions with the developer so that may have changed. I hope so.

In 2016 the rental affordability figure for York Region stood at $1,496 per month.

Caption: Newmarket's Secondary Plan area

Affordability target

The Town's Secondary Plan reflects regional policy by stipulating that a minimum of 35% of new housing units in the Provincial Urban Growth Centre (which includes Redwood on Yonge) shall be affordable to low and moderate-income households.

The planning staff tell us:

"This 35% is not intended to be achieved on each individual application but rather within the Provincial Urban Growth Centre as a whole."

How is this expected to work in practice?

In February I talked about a different approach being tried next door in East Gwillimbury which will impact many people living in the north of Newmarket. 

East Gwillimbury’s draft Secondary Plan for Green Lane says: 

“A minimum of 35% of the units developed in the Green Lane and 2nd Concession Major Local Centre will meet the definition of affordable. The 35% affordability criteria shall be applied on a per property basis, except where multiple properties are being considered for development concurrently.”  (My underlining).

The Major Local Centre is the area around the East Gwillimbury GO Rail Station.

East Gwillimbury capitulates

Alas, this innovative approach was short lived. It was shot down in flames by Redwood Properties who told the Town it would be impossible to implement:

“This is difficult if not impossible to implement. Applying it on a per property basis and not in a district or area basis exacerbates the problem. The Regional Official Plan calls for 25% affordability, except 35% at Regional Centres. We recommend reducing the requirement to 25% and removing the “per property basis” requirement.”

The Town’s planners folded and will tell councillors tomorrow:

“The wording has been corrected… The 35% affordability requirements have been updated to remove the requirement related to “per property basis”.

Instead

“Applicants shall demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Town, how the 35% target can be achieved in the Major Local Centre.”  

Part of the proposed Deerfield complex

Delivering on the target. 

How on earth is this going to work in practice? Will developers just kick the can down the road saying it is for others to deliver on affordable housing – but not them? 

Will the same thinking be applied in Newmarket? If the 35% is not going to be applied to the huge Redwood on Yonge development in Newmarket will the developer be expected to explain how that target will be achieved elsewhere in the Provincial Urban Growth Centre (around Yonge and Davis)? 

Redwood on Yonge (like Deerfield) is to be built in three phases. Don’t be surprised if the developer tantalisingly holds out the promise of affordable units in years to come when phases two and three actually materialise.

People can’t wait ten years for affordable housing.

Developments over a specified size should include affordable housing units.

No ifs or buts or maybes.

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