PH5.3 Our Plan Toronto: Recommendations on Seventy Employment Area Conversion Requests and Chapter 7
As mentioned in a previous email, Toronto currently has 12.8% Employment Lands. The report says: “In 2022, Toronto’s Employment Areas are home to over 21,600 establishments employing over 390,000 people (27% of all jobs in the city). Businesses within our Employment Areas create about 27% of the City’s estimated 2021 GDP of $195.7 billion and contribute about 12% of all property taxes paid in the City (municipal and education taxes). This report also highlights the social and economic role that Employment Areas play in the health and growth of the city, given the role that they play in supporting Toronto’s diverse economic base and providing jobs with living wages for Toronto’s diverse labour pool.”
It is almost impossible for us to increase employment lands in our city. Therefore, preserving what we have and adding industrial density is key to ensuring we are a city that can support our growth with the necessary industries and jobs required. As such, any request to convert to mixed use including housing puts an entire area at risk of losing key employment lands. There are a few reasons most councillors are reluctant to allow any conversion:
The land value goes up from the moment of approval of a conversion. Therefore, developers have in the past simply taken that value and sold it, rather than fulfilling any promises they have made including building affordable housing on the land.
There are important industries on employment lands that require truck traffic that would not be welcome in residential neighbourhoods. Once a conversion starts to creep onto employment lands, residents may try to change truck traffic which will then compromise the utility of the land.
Once a conversion happens, other surrounding properties are likely to make the same request because it is so lucrative. This could result in a cascading shrinkage of employment lands.
We will not be acquiring new employment lands, but they are critical to our city for jobs and for resources.
We must give our thanks to Councillor Carroll who patiently worked out an amendment that passed. In order to do this, she has to work with each councillor that had a conversion to agree to a plan for a regeneration study to be completed to see if any land parceling could be done to allow for a conversion that would not have these risks for cascading impact.
There was a lot of pressure and we were lobbied by both developers and councillors for these conversions. Some conversion requests were compelling, including one by a GO station in Scarborough which is on the edge of a large swath of employment lands. One does wonder where will future cement mixing, bowling alleys and other large space employment activities go if we move in the direction of converting more and more land for housing?