Cre­at­ing more af­ford­able hous­ing must be a pri­or­ity


Keep­ing this boom­ing city af­ford­able is one of the great­est chal­lenges we face as a city coun­cil.

Mak­ing sure there is a steady sup­ply of hous­ing that peo­ple can ac­tu­ally af­ford to live in is the best way we can meet that chal­lenge.

Back in 2009, Toronto city coun­cil voted to set a goal of cre­at­ing 1,000 af­ford­able rental units every year. Be­fore this ad­min­is­tra­tion, coun­cil has never once met that tar­get.

There were no dis­cus­sions with other lev­els of gov­ern­ments to pro­vide sur­plus pub­lic lands to the city. Govern­ment of­fi­cials would take months to find ways to say “no” to pri­vate and non-profit de­vel­op­ers. The city did not take the time to re­view our own sur­plus pub­lic lands. De­vel­op­ers, the non-profit sec­tor and other lev­els of gov­ern­ments were not seen as part­ners with city coun­cil.

Through a lack of lead­er­ship and a lack of will, we fell fur­ther and fur­ther be­hind.

Over the past three years, we have been work­ing to knock down each of these bar­ri­ers and fi­nally cre­ate hous­ing for those in our city who need it most. We made cre­at­ing af­ford­able hous­ing a pri­or­ity, looked for new and in­no­va­tive ways to do it and called on ev­ery­one — from the other gov­ern­ments, non-prof­its and the pri­vate sec­tor — to join us at the ta­ble.

And this week, we’ve seen that change pay off and the City of Toronto’s af­ford­able hous­ing portfolio is now in bet­ter shape than it has ever been be­fore.

For the first time since set­ting that af­ford­able hous­ing goal al­most a decade ago, this city coun­cil will ac­tu­ally meet — and ex­ceed — that tar­get this year and we are al­ready work­ing to re­peat that hard work again next year. How did we do it? Two years ago we put an ac­tion plan to­gether called Open Door de­signed to en­cour­age pri­vate and non-profit de­vel­op­ers and other lev­els of govern­ment to build af­ford­able rental and own­er­ship hous­ing quicker. We are fi­nally see­ing the fruits of that plan.

We are find­ing ways to say “yes” to de­vel­op­ers who want to work with the city. We fast-tracked the plan­ning-ap­proval process and ex­panded city fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to re­duce con­struc­tion costs. In­ter­nally, we spoke to our city di­vi­sions like the TTC and Build Toronto to see what lands they had that they could give to the pro­gram. We sat down with the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to have a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about them giv­ing us their sur­plus pub­lic lands. This week alone, we’ve se­cured $90 mil­lion from the pro­vin­cial govern­ment for sup­port­ive hous­ing to get 2,000 chron­i­cally home­less peo­ple into homes, we se­cured three pieces of sur­plus pub­lic land from the prov­ince to build 600 af­ford­able rental units, and broke ground on 100 new af­ford­able hous­ing units in Scar­bor­ough by work­ing with the Daniels Cor­po­ra­tion and Di­a­mond Corp. on a piece of city sur­plus pub­lic land that has been va­cant since 1996.

We are prov­ing that by work­ing to­gether with our part­ners — de­vel­op­ers, non­profit and other lev­els of govern­ment — we can build more af­ford­able hous­ing for the res­i­dents of Toronto.

By the end of the year, the city is track­ing that 1,200 af­ford­able rental units will be ap­proved.

There are some who will say1,000 a year is not enough. We agree there is much more to be done.

We’re will­ing to do more and we’re hope­ful our part­ners are as well.

That’s why we’re call­ing on the fed­eral govern­ment to find sur­plus land that it owns in the city and to put it to­ward af­ford­able hous­ing.

That’s why we’re still push­ing the prov­ince to fund more of its share for the Toronto Com­mu­nity Hous­ing re­pair back­log.

And that’s why we will keep en­cour­ag­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies to help build build­ings that in­clude af­ford­able hous­ing.

Ac­tu­ally hit­ting the city’s af­ford­able hous­ing goal is a good start.

Hav­ing all three lev­els of govern­ment demon­strat­ing their un­der­stand­ing that co-op­er­a­tion builds af­ford­able hous­ing and a good af­ford­able hous­ing sup­ply builds up cities is a good sign.

We pledge to not give up on keep­ing this city af­ford­able and mak­ing sure Toronto City Hall is com­mit­ted to this vi­sion for af­ford­able hous­ing.

Ana Bailao is a city coun­cil­lor for Ward 18 Davenport, the city’s hous­ing ad­vo­cate and chair of the city’s af­ford­able hous­ing com­mit­tee.

John Tory is mayor of Toronto.

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