Toronto Star: Toronto’s Housing Now affordable housing plan delayed by COVID-19, planning issues

Posted June 15, 2020

Mayor John Tory’s signature plan to create affordable housing quickly has run into delays ranging from six months to two years at some sites, according to a city report tabled Friday.
 
The Housing Now initiative was announced by Tory soon after his election in 2018 and was aimed at getting affordable housing to market in a streamlined way by making 11 city properties available to developers.
 
Now development of all 11 of those sites is behind schedule, according to an update presented on Friday to CreateTO, the city agency managing Toronto’s real estate portfolio.
 
Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were cited as a source of delay at about half of the sites, but didn’t account for everything.
 
For example, development of the site at 3933 Keele St., which was to create 190 rental units, half of them affordable, is on hold pending completion of the Finch West LRT.
 
The location at 770 Don Mills Rd., which was to provide 465 rental housing units, is delayed 12 months pending confirmation of details about the province’s delayed Ontario Line subway and LRT delays.
 
COVID delays and lease negotiations and approvals are keeping the site at 777 Victoria Park Ave., a year behind schedule. And 705 Warden Ave., has been delayed 18 months for reasons including COVID and planning approval revisions.
 
“You’re expecting everything to take longer. I don’t know how this is happening,” said Coun. Ana Bailao (Ward 9 Davenport), adding that council has made it clear that affordable housing projects, in particular Housing Now, must move forward as quickly as possible.
 
She said that while COVID may have caused some delays, people have been working and meeting from home.
 
“These delays shouldn’t be happening,” she said.
 
In addition to being a member of the board of directors for CreateTO, Bailao is a deputy mayor, chair of the city’s planning and housing committee, and a member of the mayor’s inner circle, the executive committee.
 
Affordable housing advocates have been critical of Housing Now since it was announced, arguing that it doesn’t provide enough deeply affordable units.
 
“From the beginning we thought the program was weak, now we see that there are these delays. We are wondering, what are the city’s priorities,” said Alejandra Ruiz-Vargas, chair, East York ACORN, an agency that advocates for affordable housing.
 
Ruiz-Vargas also questioned why Housing Now was delayed by COVID when other construction projects in the city were not paused.
 
“This should be something that you should probably call essential,” she said of affordable housing.
 
ACORN is planning a rally outside City Hall on Monday to demand real rent control on Housing Now sites.
 
The city has met with more success with a plan to build modular housing for the homeless — more than 100 units at two sites are on track to open up in the fall, with funding from the federal Affordable Housing Innovation Fund.
 
In May, Tory announced that six more city sites had been identified as locations for phase two of Housing Now.
 
Housing Now is one part of the city’s Housing TO 2020-2030 action plan with a target of 40,000 affordable rental units, including 18,000 supportive units within the next 10 years.
 
 
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Article by Francine Kopun for Toronto Star

 

 

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