Canadian Institue Of Planners

Shaping our Communities
Sustaining Canada's Future.

Plan Canada - Spring 2023



Housing Affordability and Choices that are Key to Quality of Life
For many complex reasons, questions about housing – how and by whom it is created, its essential role as a human right, an increasing shift towards ‘financialization’ where housing is just another tradable asset, debates about ownership versus rental, arguments that pit developers against neighbourhood activists, and the scourge of homelessness – represent only some of the threads of what most agree is a wicked problem.
Unsurprisingly, mounting concerns about affordability are occupying editorial writers from coast to coast and keeping municipal politicians up at night.
Housing affordability concerns planners as well – and is a key element of CIP’s new strategic plan (2022-2027). The challenge includes everyone from academics to policy planners, consultants and planners working for non-profits and the private sector. There is no one answer, which is why the first issue of Plan Canada in 2023 is seeking your input, regardless of where in the value chain you find yourself working.
The search for solutions to affordability frequently settles on a lack of supply. “Build more housing” goes the refrain and all will be well. Planners – and the approval processes we have helped devise – are often cited as a primary cause for delays, blocked pipelines and more, which all contribute to the ever-rising costs of producing more housing. In B.C., to speed housing approvals, the province has eliminated public hearings on use, height and density if applications are in conformity with official city plans, and municipalities must refund planning fees if applications are not handled within strict timeframes. In Ontario, the government has been resorting to Ministerial Zoning Orders to override local decisions and is giving large cities like Toronto and Ottawa ‘strong mayor’ powers – as if this can magically increase the housing supply.
Unfortunately, the problem of housing affordability is no longer – if it ever was – the sole preserve of large cities – Northern, Indigenous and rural communities also share these problems. Offering housing choice is so much more challenging than approving more high-rise condos near transit stops, approving laneway housing or finding less expensive, more sustainable building materials. Is encouraging subdivisions in smaller, less costly communities a reasonable alternative in the midst of a climate crisis? Is there a larger role for the federal government that goes beyond providing subsidies (including returning to the investment-friendly corporate tax schemes that led to the development of thousands of rental properties decades ago)? What about Canada’s pension funds, which have unique but often untapped tax advantages that could seed investment?
Too many questions. Not enough good answers. Help fill the gap by contributing to Plan Canada!

Learn more about the theme in this blog post by Glenn Miller, Co-chair of the Plan Canada Editorial Committee.

Submission deadline is December 12, 2022