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Affordable Housing Will Replace Toronto Parking Lot in Mass Timber Pilot Program

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A Toronto parking lot will soon become home to planet-friendly affordable rental housing, thanks to a new mass timber pilot program. 

Today, Mayor John Tory — joined by Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Davenport) and Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York) — announced a pilot program that will bring new affordable rental housing to the City-owned site at 1113-1117 Dundas St. W. (Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue), currently operating as a Toronto Parking Authority parking lot. 

This 100-home project — the first of its kind in Toronto — will take a new climate action approach to deliver affordable housing using mass timber and other low-carbon materials for building construction. The development is being designed to the highest tier of Toronto Green Standard Version 4. To reach this tier, this development will see no on-site fossil fuel use, maximize on-site renewable electricity, and use mass timber and other low-carbon materials as much as possible. As a result, the building will be near net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. 

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“Through this pilot program, it is anticipated that a new, scalable affordable, and market housing solution (a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program) will be developed that can be replicated on other City-owned sites across Toronto,” reads a City-issued press release. 

The City highlights anticipated benefits of this approach to residential/mixed-use development, including faster construction timelines; reduced cost due to efficiencies; reduced greenhouse gas and material (embodied carbon) emissions from the housing, transportation, and construction sectors; and improved quality of life for future residents, all while optimizing the density of affordable housing on targeted City-owned real estate assets.

“The proposal to turn a City-owned parking lot at 1117 Dundas Street West into a new form of sustainable, mid-rise affordable housing is exactly the type of project Toronto needs right now,” says Councillor Joe Cressy. “We must take advantage of every opportunity to build new sustainable and affordable housing, and that includes unlocking the potential of municipally-owned properties. This is truly a new model for sustainable, mid-rise affordable. Now, let’s do this right across the city to make our communities vibrant, diverse and accessible — now and into the future.”

According to the City, the pilot program will focus primarily on mid-rise development, but can also include analyzing both missing middle (housing types such as laneway houses, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and low-rise apartment buildings), and tall building development through a mass timber form. The City says mass timber construction presents an opportunity to rapidly scale up the supply of affordable housing in Toronto. 

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“The pilot program announced today will demonstrate not only the commitment we have to becoming a greener city but that this approach can allow help build cost-effective affordable housing,” says Mayor John Tory. “Using innovative and modern ideas like mass timber construction will help us deliver high quality designs and buildings that will contribute to our goal of net zero emissions by 2040. Once the pilot project is up and running, the results could lead to a new development model which would add a new way for us to address the affordable housing challenges in our city. This is good news for our city and a clear demonstration of the work we are doing to advance new ideas and implement solutions to pressing issues faced by our city.”

Staff will report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the fourth quarter of 2023 on the results of the pilot program, and, if successful, on a full set of recommendations to establish a new permanent Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program.  

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