Developers and the Development Industry As Active Institutional Agents in Urban Policy and Planning in the Toronto Region

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Donald LEFFERS, Independent, Canada
Gerda WEKERLE, York University, Canada
This paper investigates strategies real estate developers and the development industry use to influence urban and regional land use policy and planning. While research on developers' influence on planning has been growing (e.g., Coiacetto, 2000; Leffers, 2017; Ruming, 2009), developers and the development industry have remained undertheorized in studies of urban and regional spatial restructuring. This paper puts developers in the spotlight by investigating both routine and more ad hoc mechanisms through which developers shape planning policy and land use decisions. The empirical evidence informing this paper derives from case study research on the development industry in the Toronto region, Canada, including land conflicts associated with major regional planning reforms between 2001 and 2005. The argument is that land use planning is not simply an objective system of regulations enacted by politicians and planning staff; it is a set of deeply political institutions influenced by the ideas and actions of diverse actors, including developers and development industry associations. Theoretically, we draw on interpretive institutionalism to examine actors and ideas that influence planning and policy outcomes. Institutionalist approaches focus on the role of key actors, ideas, and strategies in influencing the trajectories of political institutions, and the confrontation of political and strategic maneuvering in the face of existing institutions and structures (Lowndes & Roberts, 2013; Olsson, 2015). This paper highlights absences in urban theory on the role of real estate developers as active institutional agents in the governance of land use.