Report recommends actions for Toronto to move three shovel ready sites forward

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

A report being considered by the City of Toronto’s planning and housing committee Apr 27 recommends actions for all levels of government to build over 16,000 homes, including 12,000 purpose-built rental units with about 5,500 being affordable rental homes.

If approved by committee and council, recommendations would ensure construction begins on three sites this year, creating a minimum of 1,949 affordable and rental units:

  • Bloor-Kipling Block 1
  • 50 Wilson Heights Blvd.
  • 140 Merton St.

“City planning is moving quickly to approve new housing supply, including affordable rental housing,” said Gregg Lintern, chief planner. “The Housing Now 2023 Progress Update report and recommended zoning by-law for 5207 Dundas Street West show that it is possible to bring forward new affordable rental housing in the context of complete communities, when the efforts of different City divisions and developer partners are aligned.”

Key actions recommended in the report include:

  • increasing grant funding to reflect local market conditions
  • taking a geographic approach to sites (including unit mix, tenure and grant levels)
  • enhancements to federal programs including those managed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank, including making some cost-neutral program changes
  • reimbursement of lost revenues due to Bill 23 plus new financial investments by the Government of Ontario to support shared housing supply goals

Housing Now is an affordable housing program in Toronto and across Canada to make city-owned land available for development of affordable rental housing within transit-oriented, mixed-income, mixed-use, complete communities.

Toronto council has committed more than $1.3 billion in land value, capital funding and financial incentives to the program on 21 prime transit-oriented Housing Now sites. To date, ten have been re-zoned and market offerings have been completed for six of them.

However, “immediate and coordinated” action across all orders of government are needed to remove hurdles and unlock shovel-ready sites, according to the report which recommends providing direction on three shovel ready sites (5207 Dundas St. W., 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. and 140 Merton St.) and advancing other sites.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant increases in construction costs and interest rates, labour shortages and global supply chain disruptions have impacted projects in Toronto and across Canada.

Also, recent changes to the federal National Housing Co-Investment Fund have capped grant funding at levels insufficient to support the cost of developing new affordable housing in Toronto.

The need for more purpose-built affordable and market rental housing in Toronto is urgent with more than 10,800 people experiencing homelessness and about 40 per cent of the city’s renter households (around 220, 000 households) living in unaffordable housing.

The full Housing Now 2023 Progress Update report is available on the city’s website.

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