End of OMB puts power in res­i­dents’ hands

Tools and pol­icy changes should re­sult in bet­ter de­vel­op­ment by Ron John­son

Thornhill Post - - News -

A few weeks ago, I was do­ing some in­for­mal re­search into the lo­cal real es­tate mar­ket and dis­cov­ered that al­most ev­ery bun­ga­low sold over the past few years in neigh­bour­hoods such as Thorn­hill and Wil­low­dale is promptly torn down or con­verted into an es­tate home. Most are then put back on the mar­ket and sold for a few hun­dred per cent more than the last price.

Long story short, in these neigh­bour­hoods the starter home is a thing of the past.

Bun­ga­lows were pop­u­lar as post-war hous­ing on the cheap and al­lowed fam­i­lies to move into grow­ing Toronto neigh­bour­hoods out­side the down­town core. And thus it re­mained un­til eco­nomic in­cen­tives put in place by var­i­ous gov­ern­ments started the nev­erend­ing pa­rade of mon­ster homes.

Now what? In or­der to ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies who can’t af­ford to drop $3.5 mil­lion for a home and are forced to push fur­ther out­ward or up­ward, wit­ness the in­creas­ing num­ber of town­homes and con­do­mini­ums.

Of course, lo­cal res­i­dents are up­set that the char­ac­ter of their neigh­bour­hood is be­ing threat­ened, and there is lit­tle they can do about it. There are mon­ster homes and con­do­mini­ums on ev­ery av­enue and thor­ough­fare from here to Bar­rie.

It got so bad that it seemed like the only way to pre­serve the lo­cal char­ac­ter of a neigh­bour­hood was to de­clare it a Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict or a her­itage prop­erty and stop any changes at all.

Then a cou­ple weeks back, Toronto’s chief plan­ner Jen­nier Keesmaat sent out a tweet about the demise of the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board, and ev­ery­thing is be­ing seen in a new light.

The power is go­ing to swing. De­ci­sions will not be made and im­posed on neigh­bour­hoods by an un­elected body.

Lo­cal res­i­dents are on a level play­ing field with devel­op­ers, and the de­vel­op­ment com­pa­nies may not like this sce­nario, but some­thing has got to give.

Drop a 50-storey tower into a lit­tle neigh­bour­hood in the very near fu­ture, and a coun­cil­lor might not be so pop­u­lar come next elec­tion.

There should be a place for all forms of de­vel­op­ment in any neigh­bour­hood. De­vel­op­ment that is ef­fi­cient and fo­cused on get­ting peo­ple out of their cars is sus­tain­able and works with the neigh­bour­hood, not against it.

The key will be for res­i­dents to ac­cept that change and that some in­creased den­sity is in­evitable. Res­i­dents can’t fight ev­ery­thing just be­cause they think things should stay the same.

That no­tion is as out of touch as unchecked de­vel­op­ment.

Toronto’s chief plan­ner Jen­nifer Keesmaat

RON JOHN­SON

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