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Two condo developers are asking the Federal Court to stop a federal ban on building new homes in their areas, saying it violates their Charter rights and violates their right to equal access to housing.
A ruling expected later this month could set a precedent for many condo developers and condo owners who fear the federal government is clamping down on new housing developments, and that building new housing is not a priority for their communities.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that Ottawa could not restrict the building of new homes.
The judges ruled that Ottawa’s new zoning laws do not apply to condominiums, which are governed by zoning bylaws that are different from other developments.
The federal government says the zoning laws apply to all types of developments.
The new owners argue the rules are not needed to build new homes, but are simply needed to protect the integrity of their communities and the values of the surrounding neighbourhood.
The ruling by the Federal Appeals Court is expected to have implications for thousands of condo and apartment owners across the country who have been waiting for a ruling on whether they can build or rent in their neighbourhoods, and for the thousands of new condominium development plans that are in the works.
Many condos, such as the one being developed in Ottawa’s east end, have been struggling to attract buyers and developers because of rising costs.
A recent report by the Toronto Real Estate Board said new condo development plans had fallen by nearly 20 per cent in the past year.
The government has said it will review the appeals court ruling and could make a final decision by the end of June.
In their lawsuit, the owners argue that the new zoning rules are unconstitutional because they go against the Charter rights of all citizens.
The owners say Ottawa’s restrictions are not designed to protect communities from development and they are in violation of the federal Landmark Charter, which prohibits the “dissemination of information or propaganda” that could lead to the creation of new communities.
In its decision, the federal appeals court said that the federal zoning rules do not protect the right to a peaceful, orderly and just society.
The court said the zoning rules have not been “frozen” and therefore cannot be used to restrict the right of new development.
The owners also say that the rules could put new condontents at a disadvantage because new construction will not be allowed in their communities, but the city has been clear it will allow new construction in those areas.
The court ruled that the “minimal impact” of the new rules would be minimal because the city and Ottawa could have chosen to enforce the rules without the new restrictions.
The case has drawn criticism from condo owners, including some who fear new housing development is not as important to them as the new roads, transit, schools and public amenities that they seek in their neighbourhood.
Paul Godfrey, a Toronto-area councillor, said he thinks the condo owners are making a good argument.
He said condo development is booming and condo buildings are filling up rapidly.
“I don’t think the issue is that we need more condo development, but that it’s not a good use of tax dollars,” Godfrey said.
“The issue is the city is not building enough condo units.
There are more condominium units than condos in our neighbourhoods.”
The Supreme House of Commons in Ottawa.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)In their appeal, the condo developers argue that they are not required to comply with the new regulations because the zoning has been set in the context of their neighbourhood and that any changes to the zoning would be “unduly restrictive” and would not affect their right of free association.
The condo owners say the new federal rules are being applied to all condo developments, including condo-type units, because the federal rules do apply to condo development.
They argue the city should also be required to enforce those rules.
In a statement, the city said the new city rules do require new condo buildings in their jurisdiction to comply, but they do not require condo developers to provide information on how many units are being built and to ensure that those units are affordable and located in neighbourhoods that have low vacancy rates.
The city said that it is committed to working with condo developers, and it is also committed to ensuring that the zoning regulations are in compliance with all local zoning regulations, including those in Ottawa, by ensuring that condo developers comply with those rules in all new developments.
“As is our practice, we will continue to work closely with developers, ensuring that all new development in Ottawa complies with the applicable zoning rules and that all existing condo developments are built in a manner that is consistent with Ottawa’s core values,” the statement said.
The building owners are asking for a stay of the order until the appeal is heard.