Disturbing the Balance: Exploring the Implications of Employment Land Conversions in the City of Toronto
The aim of this paper is to explore and understand the implications of employment land conversions in the City of Toronto, and in particular its impact on housing affordability. The municipal government has attempted to remedy the issue of land conversions by introducing new policies that are meant to restore, or at the very least slow down, the loss of employment opportunities through the protection of employment lands. The paper analyzes the new employment land policies within the context of current and outstanding development applications seeking land conversions to permit residential uses. The purpose of examining employment land conversions as it relates to housing affordability is to understand why residential development may not improve housing security. Although landowners and developers leverage the language on affordability, transit supportive development, and creating employment opportunities to legitimize the conversion requests, the redesignation of employment land to permit residential uses does not necessarily advance these goals. Rather, the conversions can fuel a series of other processes such as gentrification and the loss of good job that may make housing in the City less, rather than more, affordable. Safeguarding good jobs can generally improve housing security for a greater proportion of urban residents. I ask, however, whether the municipal government's emphasis on the protection of employment lands alone is enough and if this strategy should be coupled with a series of other policies to improve the economic circumstances of city residents?