Toronto adopts new initiatives to expedite and protect affordable housing projects

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Along with passing a new inclusionary zoning policy, Toronto city council adopted reports that will the Housing Now initiative, introduce the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Program and implement a new definition of affordable housing.

The Housing Now Initiative was approved in January 2019 to use underutilized, city-owned lands to develop affordable rental housing within transit-oriented, mixed-income, mixed-use, and complete communities.

Last week council voted to add four additional sites:

  • 2700 Eglinton Ave. W.
  • 40 Bushby Dr.
  • 4040 Lawrence Ave. E.
  • East Bayfront (also known as Block R6)

These four sites are estimated to provide between 1,150 and 1,400 new homes, including between 450 and 600 affordable rental homes. Also, six sites were approved as part of a pipeline of future sites, allowing staff to “undertake early due diligence work on these sites and more quickly develop them in future phases of the Housing Now Initiative to deliver even more market and affordable homes.”

Housing Now sites aim to deliver new community benefits along with affordable rental homes. The East Scarborough Storefront has played an integral role in the community around 4040 Lawrence Ave. E., and the City will continue to work closely with this important organization to ensure the future development at 4040 Lawrence Ave. E. has a minimal impact on their operations.

Housing Now is a key component of the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan and is central to meeting the target of creating 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes, by 2030. Since 2019, 17 sites have been included as part of Phases One and Two of the Housing Now initiative and are currently in various stages of development. Several sites have completed the re-zoning process, and three have development partners selected with construction estimated to begin in 2022.

“I am proud to have led city council in approving these policies and programs this week that will get more affordable housing built in our city,” said Mayor John Tory.

“This is important action on the housing file that will translate very quickly to more shovels in the ground across the city. And those shovels will build thousands of new places for working young people and working families to call home.”

The Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Program approved by council will provide grant funding and Open Door Program incentives including exemptions from property taxes and waiver of application fees, to qualified non-profit and Indigenous housing groups to assist them to purchase and renovate existing market rental properties. These properties will be used to create permanently affordable rental homes for Toronto residents with low-and-moderate incomes by:

Protecting existing rental properties and create permanent affordable rental homes

improving housing stability for current and future tenants

improving the physical conditions of buildings

increasing capacity in the non-profit and Indigenous housing sectors

ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the homes

The MURA Program will be implemented through an annual open call for proposal process to establish a list of qualified and experienced non-profit and Indigenous housing providers.

Selected proponents will be given pre-approved available funding, which would provide certainty and allow them to move quickly to secure properties available for purchase. Proponents will have up to one calendar year from the date of approval to submit properties for consideration.

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