‘We need to be bold’: Critics of Mayor John Tory’s affordable housing plan say it doesn’t go far enough

‘We need to be bold’: Critics of Mayor John Tory’s affordable housing plan say it doesn’t go far enough

Mayor John Tory’s Housing Now plan, which would see construction of 10,000 new residential units on 11 vacant city properties in Toronto, does not include enough affordable housing, critics said this morning, before a council meeting to discuss the plan.

“This is a housing crisis and our response needs to reflect that,” said Councillor Mike Layton, who attended the press conference with Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam and city advocates.

Tory announced the Housing Now plan late last year, and while initial reports of 10,000 new units sounded promising, many are now saying the numbers are far too low.

At a press conference before the council meeting, Tory said that the Housing Now plan is not the end of the city’s affordable housing plan, but “a very important first step.”

He warned against trying to make too many amendments.

“Our city staff has said that on some of these sites, if we keep moving it forward and don’t bog it down with all the kinds of things we’ve done in the past, with studies and trying to do too much at once in terms of how many objectives we try to accomplish, there can be shovels in the ground in some of these sites next year, which is, I think what the public would expect from us.”

Discussion of the Housing Now plan is the first item on council’s agenda for Wednesday. Also on the agenda: Making the Richmond and Adelaide protected bike lanes permanent; signal changes and road closures for Eglinton Crosstown construction; asking Airbnb to live up to rules which are now on hold while under appeal, and a report on term limits for council members.

“Why is the city taking such a timid and tepid approach,” said Wong Tam, who points out that only 3,629 of the units will be affordable, and of that number, she says only 362 will be deeply affordable.

Wong Tam has said the plan favours developers and uses public lands to subsidize private home ownership.

Ebony Menzies, a member of Toronto ACORN, representing low and moderate income families across Toronto said that while the organization was initially hopeful when it heard about Housing Now, it now believes the city must do more.

“We did some math. The amount of units built under this initiative that are actually affordable works out to 333 units — that’s just 3.3 per cent. That’s a drop in the bucket when you have over 100,000 people on the housing waiting list,” said Menzies.

ACORN is calling on the mayor and city council to make sure 50 per cent of the units are affordable.

Monica Krista de Vera, of Progress Toronto, pointed out that while the land at the 11 sites would be sold forever, the affordable housing is to be maintained for 99 years, not indefinitely.

“Mayor Tory’s proposal on housing simply passes the problem onto my generation,” said de Vera.

“Even though I’m educated, even though I have a full-time job and even though I love my parents, I do eventually want to move out. And I love this city so much…but I am afraid of being priced out of Toronto.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

With files from David Rider

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