Council to consider spending $12M on the creation of 651 affordable homes

Toronto Mayor John Tory says a report to be considered by council in October will recommend that the city approve eight new development proposals that would create 651 affordable homes, but a housing advocate says the number is nowhere near enough.

Tory told reporters on Tuesday that the report recommends that city council spend more than $12 million to subsidize the projects and offer about $38 million worth of financial incentives under its Open Door Program.

Incentives from the city include breaks in development charges, building permits, planning fees and municipal property taxes. The combined average of these incentives is about $58,850 per home.

All eight proposals follow a call for affordable rental housing applications, between February and May this year, as part of the program, which was established to create more affordable rental housing in Toronto. Three of eight proposals are from non-profit housing organizations, Tory said.

The mayor said he knows the city needs “to considerably step up that pace” to create affordable housing but he is pleased with the eight proposals. They represent the results of the third annual Open Door Program call for applications. Construction of one site could begin next month.

“These are housing units that will come on stream in a reasonable period of time and we are looking for every opportunity in a variety of different ways to expedite that,” Tory said.

Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão said the city understands the need is greater than what can be supplied.

“It is crucial that we continue to work to ensure that all residents of our city have a safe, comfortable and secure home,” she said.

But Mark Guslits, an affordable housing advocate, architect and developer, said more affordable housing is needed in a city the size of Toronto. The announcement “chips away” at the problem, he said, but it cannot be solved without other levels of government.

“You end up with Toronto essentially by itself trying to fund some affordable housing and doing the best they can. But the amount of money that they have available is just not enough, given the enormous cost of building housing,” Guslits said.

“The problem is just so enormous.”

According to Tory, the report recommends that the homes built would stay affordable for a minimum of 30 years, and in some cases, in perpetuity.

Since 2016, a total of 6,694 affordable rental homes have been approved. Once the report is approved, the total number of affordable homes created through the program will be about 7,350 across the city.

In a news release, the city said the program is a combination of elements to address the affordable housing shortage in Toronto

“To fast track affordable housing, the Open Door Program brings together critical elements needed to kick-start affordable rental and ownership housing construction: surplus public land designated for new affordable rental and ownership housing; fast-tracked planning approvals through a gold star review process; additional city financial incentives; and federal and provincial funding,” the release reads.

The report will be considered by the city’s planning and housing committee next week.

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