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 Star - - CANADA - EMILY MATHIEU AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING RE­PORTER With files from David Rider

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.”

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