The Ottawa City Council approved the Section 37 Guidelines 2017 Report recommended by Planning Committee on May 24, the result of a five year review of the city’s implementation of Section 37.
In the Ontario Planning Act, Section 37 can be used by municipalities to obtain community benefits in return for a Zoning By-law Amendment. The policy is designed so a developer can negotiate with the city to receive increases in height and/or density of development in exchange for cash or a community benefit in the neighborhood. Examples include affordable housing, daycare and public art.
Since the city’s original implementation of the policy in 2012, several issues have been made clear. The revised 2017 Guidelines outline numerous changes, including reformatting, definitions and clarification of calculations and financial tracking. There have been a total of 13 Section 37 provisions so far, almost entirely for private developers seeking to expand the size of planned condo projects. As of May 2017, only three of these provisions have set aside money for affordable housing development.
A letter written by our sister corporation, CCOC, was sent to Planning Committee, which contained comments on the proposed 2017 Guideline changes, as well as general points from the original 2012 implementation.
One of the letter's key recommendations stated the importance of prioritizing affordable housing for community benefits derived from Section 37 funds. Density increases impact land value, which can have a negative effect on housing affordability. There is a logical connection between allowing the density increases and offsetting the negative community impact by dedicating a portion of funds to affordable housing development.
The letter also recommended that community benefits should be associated with the impacted community. Affordable housing projects should receive priority in the local area or with an appropriate geographic relationship to the site.
The potential of Section 37 money as funding for affordable housing is already proven. Previous City Councillor Diane Holmes created a Somerset Ward Section 37 fund specifically for affordable housing. In 2016, Councillor McKenney approved $500,000 of the fund to be used towards the cost of CCOC creating affordable housing at 143-153 Arlington. Councillor Jeff Leiper has also put a Section 37 affordable housing fund in place.
Cahdco and CCOC believe that every tool available should be used to create affordable housing, and we would like to see more Councillors taking advantage of this funding opportunity.
Please see the attached copy of the CCOC letter for further reading.