The conversion of employment lands in Toronto refers to the process of repurposing designated areas primarily intended for industrial and commercial activities into other uses, such as residential or mixed-use developments. This phenomenon has gained attention and sparked debates due to its potential impact on the city's economic vitality, job creation, and urban planning.
Toronto, as a growing metropolitan area, faces increasing pressure to accommodate population growth and address the demand for housing. This has led to discussions about utilizing employment lands for residential purposes to maximize land use efficiency. Proponents argue that repurposing these lands can help alleviate the housing shortage, promote urban densification, and create vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods.
However, City Planning Staff express concerns about the loss of industrial and commercial spaces, as well as the potential negative effects on employment opportunities and economic sectors that rely on these lands. They argue that converting employment lands could lead to the displacement of existing businesses, hinder economic diversity, and erode the city's ability to attract and retain industries and jobs.
In 2022, Toronto’s Employment Areas are home to over 21,600 establishments employing over 390,000 people. This is approximately 27% of all jobs in the city. Businesses within our Employment Areas create about 27% of the City’s $195.7 billion estimated 2021 GDP. These lands also contribute about 12% of all property taxes paid in the City while using less services than other land use areas such as residential.
To manage this complex issue, the City of Toronto has implemented policies and planning frameworks to guide land use decisions. The city's Official Plan designates specific areas as employment lands, aiming to protect and promote job opportunities and economic growth. The plan emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balance between accommodating housing needs and preserving employment lands.
However, despite these protections, there have been instances of employment lands conversion in Toronto. Developers and landowners have submitted rezoning applications to repurpose these lands for residential or mixed-use projects, often citing the need for more housing options. These proposals are subject to scrutiny by City Planning and community stakeholders to ensure they align with the city's long-term goals and do not compromise economic sustainability.
The conversion of employment lands in Toronto is an ongoing topic of discussion and debate with City staff. Here is a link to the agenda item which will be considered at the Planning and Housing Committee on June 14, 2023: Agenda Item History - 2023.PH4.5 (toronto.ca). This item will also be considered at City Council in July.
Here is the final report outlining City Planning Staff’s recommendation for 45 employment land conversions: Our Plan Toronto: Recommendations on Forty-Five Employment Area Conversion Requests - Final Report.
Below are links to more resources:
Finding innovative solutions and implementing effective policies that accommodate growth while preserving employment lands will be crucial for the city's long-term prosperity.