Toronto’s invitation to build affordable housing, with financial help and incentives from the city, yielded eight new proposals for a total of 651 lower-priced homes.
Three of the Open Door affordable housing program developments recommended by city staff this year come from by non-profit agencies, with the rest from private developers. If approved by city council and built, the units will remain below market rent for between 30 years and 99 years, depending on the project.
To spur the new housing, the city would subsidize construction costs in total to the tune of $12.3 million, and offer another $38.3 million in incentives including waived development fees.
The city defines “affordable” units as those at or below average market rent as reported by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., based on currently occupied units. In 2018, the average market rent for a Toronto one-bedroom apartment was $1,202 a month, and $1,426 for a two-bedroom unit.
Mayor John Tory told reporters Tuesday, after release of a report recommending the new projects, that Open Door is “one tool” that will not, on its own, solve Toronto’s affordable housing crisis.
He said he will be looking at federal parties’ election platforms to see if they are pledging housing help, including donations of surplus federal lands.
“We haven’t come up with all the tools we’ll need,” given sky-high rents and house prices in a city that is thriving economically, the mayor said, adding council has approved almost 6,700 units through Open Door since the program launched in 2016.
A 2017 Star analysis found that none of the projects trumpeted at the time had actually been finished. Tory’s office said Tuesday that, since 2016, the program has seen 237 affordable rentals completed and occupied. Another 782 are under construction, 163 of which will be finished by the end of 2019.
The rest of the 6,694 green-lighted projects are “going through required planning approval processes.”
Councillor Ana Bailão, council’s housing advocate, said the review of this year’s proposals focused on ensuring non-profit builders are included, and noted a proposal to give five non-profits not on the recommended list funding to help them make successful future pitches.
Other priorities, she said, were that construction start dates be as soon as possible — they range from next month to 2022 — and that units remain affordable as long as possible.
She acknowledged housing advocates’ criticism of the city definition of “affordable” lodging and said work on Toronto’s 10-year housing plan this fall will include a review of the criteria.
Projects recommended by city staff this year are: 685 Queen St. E. (32 affordable units); 2217 Kingston Rd. (24 affordable units); 591 Finch St. W. (159 affordable units); 884 Kingston Rd. (30 affordable units); 82 Buttonwood Ave. (106 affordable units); 989 College St. (17 affordable units); 3775-4005 Dundas St. W. (63 affordable units); and 1236 Birchmount Rd. (220 affordable units).
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