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A plan to make 11 city-owned parcels of land available for the development of affordable housing has been given the green light by Mayor John Tory’s executive committee and will now go to city council as a whole for final approval.
The plan was approved by executive committee during its first meeting of the new term on Wednesday.
Staff say that the surplus lands identified as part of the city’s ‘Housing Now initiative can be used for the development of approximately 10,000 new residential units with two-thirds of those units set aside for purpose-built rental. Of those rental units, about half (3,700) would be set aside for affordable housing with rents ranging from 40 to 80 per cent of market value.
“This is a common sense initiative that we can take now with our city-owned land,” Tory said during a news conference ahead of the meeting. “We can actually have shovels literally in the ground as early as next year with some of these sites and that is the speed with which we want to move forward.”
During the mayoral campaign Tory promised to build 40,000 new affordable housing units over the next 12 years, which would average out to about 3,300 units per year.
To put that number in context the city approved a record 1,650 new affordable units in 2018, meeting a previous goal of 1,000 approvals per year for only the second time.
As part of the ‘Housing Now’ initiative, the city will retain ownership of the surplus lands but provide developers with a 99-year lease so long as they adhere to certain conditions. The city will also waive more than $280 million in development charges, fees and property taxes over the length of the leases, including an estimated $3.3 million in taxes per year in today’s dollars.
“The scale of the situation that we face in terms of the affordability and availability of affordable housing in the City of Toronto requires this kind of attention,” Tory said. “It is one step, it is one step only but it is a big one, it is a significant one and it will be followed by many other initiatives to take this challenge head on.”
All of the 11 sites selected by city staff are located near public transit lines with a number of them currently used as surface parking lots.
Tory’s housing advocate Coun. Ana Bailão said that the goal behind the plan is to create “mixed income and complete communities in transit hubs.”
“To bring a little bit of perspective, the entire development industry in the City of Toronto builds an average of 16,000 to 18,000 units a year so this is a big endeavor,” she said during Wednesday’s news conference. “And as the mayor said, this is just a first step. We are hoping this is the first package of many packages.
While Tory said that he is hopeful that council as a whole will support the plan and allow staff to begin work on finding developers for the lands, not everyone is an agreeance.
Parkdale-High Park Coun. Gord Perks told CP24 on Wednesday afternoon that the city should be developing the land itself, so that it can maximize the number of affordable units that will be made available.
“I think there is a missed opportunity here. We own this land. If we behaved the way that we did a generation ago we could be the developer and get much better outcomes in terms of affordable housing,” he said. “I have been trying to get the mayors ear on this but he seems dead set that the private sector has to come in and make their profit on public land.”
Perks said that the city could develop the surplus lands into a mixed-income development with affordable units, just as it did with a large housing project in the city’s St. Lawrence neighbourhood in the 1970’s. Cp24

January 25, 2019

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