Councillor calls for cap on highrises

Kristyn Wong-Tam seeking one-year hold on highrise developments

Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is calling for a hold on tall building developments until planned area assessments can be completed.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Courtesy City of Toronto)

With projected population rates for the city at nearly 6.6 million, it’s a race for developers and the municipality to keep up with the rate of growth. The balance in what amenities are created isn’t equal and Councillor Wong-Tam cautions it is already having disastrous effects on the future of the city.

“Every municipality’s suggestions are subject to overturn by the Ontario Municipal Board,” Wong-Tam says. “They never consider if sources are in place to accommodate residential growth. It’s why we’ve already missed our target for the 40 years of growth project, in only 14 years.”

On Oct. 27, Councillor Wong-Tam sent a letter to the Toronto and East York Community Council recommending a one-year moratorium on new tall building residential re-zoning applications until TOcore is implemented.

TOcore is a project by city planning to help public services and spaces keep pace with the growing population. It will begin to undergo public and stakeholder consultations in early 2017. It could take up to mid 2017 to begin implementation.

“The TOCore project is long overdue; 15 years overdue, to be exact,” Wong-Tam says. “We needed to plan this city smartly and sustainably. We need to understand how much growth to accommodate for, and work to create services to complement that growth. We can’t just have people stacked into vertical towers without infrastructure and green-space to accommodate them.”

Ward 31 councillor Janet Davis sympathizes with her fellow councillor.

“Private developers have used every square inch of downtown space,” Davis says. Every lot has been converted into high density housing at a commercial grade level. It’s reached a tipping point.”

She agreed with Wong-Tam that services, programs, and facilities required to support the expected level of population growth have not been built. “There has to be a way to ensure these services are in place.”

An issue across the city, the highrise effect is evident in many parts of East York. With a planning study already underway, Davis is looking to keep residents’ opinions in mind moving forward.

She has moved to initiate a planning study of the Danforth area, which is currently underway. “We established a group, with one public meeting so far. Over the next stakeholders meetings in the next year, there will be further consultations on development.”

She sees interim control by-laws as a viable solution to hold off developers — an option she plans to share with Councillor Wong-Tam.

“Seems to me the only way one can really stop the proliferation of high rises is to use an interim control by-law until the TOcore study is completed,” Davis says. “We don’t have any tools to simply stop developers.”

Councillor Wong-Tam agrees, saying, “It’s not that we don’t need more housing. Rather, we need to be looking to expand the range of housing options. We need to take a holistic look at city planning that is interconnected … and TOcore can provide that.”

To flesh out solutions on the issue, Councillor Wong-Tam is redoing her letter. The revised proposal for a moratorium will be presented at the next Community Council meeting