City hopes to create affordable housing with 11 surplus properties
Council asked to support plan to free up the sites, including former War Amps headquarters
Toronto is moving toward the creation of more affordable housing through the identification of 11 city-owned surplus property sites that could be used to build a range of lower-cost homes.
The plan is called Housing Now and is intended to help ensure the development of mixed-income communities along major transit lines and close to places to shop, work and access quality health care and other amenities.
“I want to build as much affordable housing as possible, and I want to do it as quickly as possible, and I want the federal and provincial governments to make a similar commitment,” Mayor John Tory said, announcing the plan at a Friday morning press conference at city hall.
When city council meets next week, it will be asked to endorse and approve the 11sites for use and support a request that the city manager be directed to bring an action plan forward to the mayor’s executive committee in January and engage in conversations with provincial and federal officials as well as private notfor-profit housing organizations around funding options.
Those details were included in a letter Tory had added to the agenda.
What Housing Now actually means in terms of development — new purposebuilt rentals, lower-cost condominiums, mixed-income apartment complexes, all or some of the above — will be worked out in the months and years ahead.
Tory has committed to the creation of 40,000 affordable housing units over 12 years.
One city-owned site is home to the former national headquarters of the War Amputations of Canada (the War Amps), near Yonge St. and Da- visville Ave.
The riding (Toronto-St. Paul’s) is represented by Councillor Josh Matlow. The building, he said, is designated as a heritage property, so development would go up around it.
Matlow applauded the mayor for his support of the initiative and said city council needs to demonstrate leadership when it comes to solving Toronto’s housing woes.
A midtown neighbourhood like Davisville should be accessible to everybody, he said.
“This isn’t only about affordable housing. This is about social cohesion,” Matlow told the Star.
What should come next, he said, is a discussion around how the city defines affordability.
“If we are using our public land, we have a lot of leverage. If we are going to be working with developers, if they want to partner with us, we can tell them right off the bat what we expect.”
Councillor Gord Perks also stressed the need for rigorous planning to ensure the lands are put to their best use.
“Before any sale takes place, we need to develop business cases for developing mixed-use housing using public funds, co-ops, etc.,” Perks tweeted.
Another site is in the Don Valley North riding, an 8.5-acre lot near Sheppard Ave. E. and Leslie St. and across from North York General Hospital.
Area Councillor Shelley Carroll told the Star the extended Sheppard subway line and a nearby GO Transit station have propelled growth in the riding, and affordable rentals are scarce, as are chances for younger people to get on the property ladder.
Carroll said she hopes to partner with the hospital, as it is a significant local employer and looking to expand.
“If there is a way for them to be part of this equation, that would be a real win for Don Valley North.”