Affordable Housing – Delivering More New Units that are Actually Affordable

Over the next term of Council, Josh will work to:

 

Make Affordable Housing truly affordable and unlock City-owned land to dramatically increase the number of new units

Toronto is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis:

  •  245,605, or 46.7%, renter households in Toronto face affordability issues as defined by the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC)
  •  More than 90,000 households are currently on the affordable housing wait list
  • Average asking rent was $1,632 for a 1 bedroom apartment and over $2,400 for a family unit according to a September 2017 report by City Planning
  • Vacancy rates for both condo, and purpose-built rentals fell below 1% for the first time in 2017
  • Toronto closed 1,000 social housing units in the last 2 years due to disrepair.
  • Waitlist for a subsidized home now has over 181,000 people

The City's current plan to address the crisis is inadequate. The Open Door program secures housing that is not actually affordable for many Torontonians, its goal of building 1,000 annually through is inadequate, and the program is not even meeting those low targets.

  • Make "Affordable" Housing actually affordable

The Open Door program offers developers incentives to provide market rate housing, as defined by the CMHC (table 1.1.2). A household would have to earn at least $52,320 for a unit to be considered "affordable" under this definition. While many in this income bracket are struggling to make ends meet in Toronto's spiralling rental market, those with lower incomes should be supported as well. In addition, many of the agreements the City has signed under Open door are limited to only 20-30 years. When the agreement is up the landlord can charge whatever they want.

Josh moved a motion supported by his colleagues to have City Staff review the definition of affordability. In the next term of Council he will work to ensure that the Open Door program secures a mix of units that are affordable to more Torontonians:

  • Affordability agreements in perpetuity (typically 99 year agreements)
  • Securing units at 80-60% of market rate, instead of at market
  • Establishing more Rent Geared to Income units
  • Unlock City-owned land to dramatically increase the number of new units

Both leading Mayoral candidates have stated that the City needs to increase its targets for the number of units built each year. Former Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat has set a bold target of building 100,000 new housing units over 10 years, while John Tory has stated he will build 40,000. It will likely take an intervention toward the higher end of the range to house those who are rapidly being priced out of Toronto, while potentially cooling the overall rental market through increased supply.

There is some question as to the capacity Toronto has to build a significant number of additional housing units, affordable or not. There is certainly merit to that question but, working with the provincial and federal governments, there are great opportunities to train young people for high-paying, skilled careers in construction, while encouraging new companies and workers from across Canada, and elsewhere, to fill gaps in talent and capital if necessary. 

For its part, the City needs to unlock underutilized land for affordable housing, including:

Surface Parking Lots

The City owns 15,000 Toronto Parking Authority stalls, and 13,800 TTC Park and ride stalls in surface lots right next to subway stations. The parking can be replaced underground

 

(Left- TTC Park & Ride lot; Right - Kowloon Station Hong Kong)

(Left- TTPA Surface Lot lot; Right - Underground TPA lot, housing above)

Toronto Community Housing

Toronto Community Housing has 35,564,896 sq ft of land. A good portion of those properties are occupied by tall towers in dense contexts and would not be appropriate for redevelopment, such as the building seen below near Yonge and Eglinton.

(Holly Park, TCHC Property)

However, many TCHC land holdings are "tower in the park" configurations, with vast tracts of open space that could accommodate infill developments.

 

Other TCHC, properties, like the one at Queensway and Windermere below, are in townhome configurations that are low-density and in critical need of repair.

(Swansea Mews)

Sites such as these provide great opportunities for redevelopment.

In Scarborough, The West Hill TCHC property at Morningside and Lawrence shown below, has both low rise buildings and large open spaces.

There is a great opportunity to revitalize neighbourhoods and create more affordable housing by redeveloping some TCHC communities. As a point of comparison, the Regent Park redevelopment alone will add 5,000 new residents by completion.

Build Toronto

Build Toronto has 5,760,769 sq ft of land. It is reasonable to assume that almost all of their land is developable, as Build Toronto primarily retains ownership of land for the purposes of development.

Conclusion

The above land could accommodate almost 80,000 units taking into account just surface parking lots, TCHC, and Build Toronto applying a moderate density that would translate into midrise apartments.

This exercise did not factor in the 33 single-story TTC subway stations which would be prime development sites, nor did it analyze the development potential of Toronto Hydro, Toronto Water, or any other of the City Divisions and Agencies not shown above.

 

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Address: 711 Merton St, Toronto, ON, M4S 1B4