Rental properties are getting into the Zone Taking a closer look at the RAC Zone By-law RHB Magazine interviewed Lauralyn Johnston, a registered professional planner and project manager with the City of Torontoâ€™s Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization Unit about its newly implemented Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zone By-law. RHB: Please briefly describe the RAC Zone By-law. Lauralyn Johnston: The City of Toronto's commitment to building strong and revitalized neighbourhoods is supported by a number of programs and opportunities. The Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zone by-law, administered by the City's Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization unit, is one example. The RAC zoning by-law is an amendment that allows small-scale commercial and community services on more than 400 older apartment building sites where they were previously prohibited. These include small businesses such as food markets, barber shops, nail salons, small shops, medical offices and cafes. Also included are not-for-profit organizations and charities such as places of worship, after school youth clubs, and even outdoor uses like farmers' markets â€“ all the elements that make up a vibrant community. RHB: How are buildings chosen to qualify for this RAC Zone By-law zoning change / what is the process? Lauralyn Johnston: The buildings that were identified for the rezoning by the City were mainly the larger/older towers with 100 plus units that were previously zoned as "residential apartments" and only allowed for residential uses. These types of towers are mostly located in the City's older suburbs where building strong neighbourhoods means investing in them to ensure that Toronto is a city for all. RHB: How does adding these services change a building ownerâ€™s tax situation? Lauralyn Johnston: Tax assessments are a provincial matter and conducted by MPAC.
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Once MPAC provides some clarity on the tax situation, we will communicate this to building owners. What I can tell you is that the RAC Zone by-law opens up new possibilities for these older towers, giving them a new "life" while benefiting tenants, landlords and the community. RHB: Does this change affect rent levels? Lauralyn Johnston: The information we have, to date, indicates the changes would not affect most units. Of course, if a building becomes more desirable because it now has new, previously unavailable services, units to be re-rented may obtain higher rents in the future. RHB: This obviously benefits tenants, as it gives them access to services in their building / neighbourhood not available. It benefits the landlord in offering amenities to tenants. But is there a downside for the tenants / landlord / neighbourhood / tenants in neighbouring buildings without these amenities? Lauralyn Johnston: Remember the old "tuck shops" that where only accessed by building tenants? Those days are almost gone. Landlords can now offer new services found within the building to the neighbourhood, making these true community offerings. This builds a sense of community, increases the small business owner's clientele or customer base and increased foot traffic generally makes the area safer and inclusive. Even residents of detached homes in the area may have access to services that they can now walk to. RHB: Why were these services prohibited in the first place? Lauralyn Johnston: When these buildings were built, car was king and the predominant philosophy was to separate where people
lived from where they worked or shopped. A lot has changed in 50 years. Reducing our carbon footprint is critical. Today, it's about building communities through planning so we can live, work, shop and play in our community. RHB: How is this by-law similar to / different from what other municipalities do? Lauralyn Johnston: Research shows that there are a lot of different approaches, depending on the municipality's history, location, growth rate and planning context. We're Canada's largest city and sixth largest government. We have a vibrant downtown that already employs "mixed use" planning in new developments while meeting the community's needs. This amendment simply makes it easier for other parts of the city to revitalize their area and strengthen their neighbourhoods without having to rezone a whole property for a minor change. RHB: What happens if the landlord / tenants want to get rid of an amenity to get an available unit? Lauralyn Johnston: This would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some buildings are required by the zoning by-law they were built under to have an amenity. And while the new zoning by-law changed the parking regulations a bit (most RAC buildings are now allowed to have less parking), amenity spaces weren't touched. Then there are buildings with underused spaces such as storage rooms, old locker rooms, maintenance areas, and some have areas where they could build small additions to accommodate a new use. A perfect example is an ATM machine. Previously you couldn't install one; now with a little space, an ATM is possible.
costs on building surveillance, and repairs. The bottom line is that having these amenities is a "win-win-win" for business owners, tenants and the community at large. That's why we encourage building owners to come talk to us about the benefits of RAC Zone by-law. They can call us at 416-392-9716 for more information. RHB Magazine asked John Dickie, President, Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations (CFAA), for his interpretation and views on the by-law. RHB: What is CFAA’s take on the RAC Zone By-law? John Dickie: CFAA welcomes Toronto’s Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zone By-law. The by-law provides flexibility for residential landlords to offer rental space for more services for their tenants and for others in the community. As the City says, allowing these amenities is a “win-win-win” for the rental owners, tenants and the community at large. For years, Canada’s cities have typically erred on the side of too little freedom in land uses, rather than too much. CFAA and landlords would like to see more flexibility in permitted uses in virtually all residential zones across Canada.
RHB: What does the landlord gain / lose in rent by allowing different amenities / services to use a unit? Lauralyn Johnston: There are a lot of possibilities and potential scenarios that this new amendment fosters. A building owner could generate additional income if, for example, a City-run daycare would pay to lease the space and renovations to accommodate it. Or a change of space may add intrinsic value, such as a sense of community. An after school homework club or program for youth may not generate a lot of income, but could create a sense of pride and ownership by engaging youth. This, in turn, could lower vandalism and property crime rates, lowering spending
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Published on Feb 27, 2018