Finding an affordable apartment in Toronto can feel like a matter of winning the lottery, and sometimes, it is, literally.

Toronto’s latest example of a lottery for tenants seeking affordable-rental units is underway for Galleria on the Park: an eight-tower, master-planned community on a 20-acre swath of land at the southwest corner of Dufferin Avenue and Dupont Street, once home to the perennially ‘70s-style Galleria Mall. As part of a partnership with the City of Toronto, developer Almadev, formerly known as Elad Canada, recently began accepting online applications in a lottery for 135 affordable rental apartments with a deadline of April 30 at 8 p.m. ET. The apartments range from 549 sq. ft to 1,123 sq. ft and include one-, two-, and three-bedroom options. “[An additional] 15 suites are allocated to a local non-profit agency addressing specific demographic needs,” according to the affordable initiative’s website.

Rents for one-bedroom units are set at $1,589; to qualify for these units, households can earn no more than $81,984 annually. Two-bedroom rents are $1,828, with a maximum allowable eligible income of $95,616, while three-bedroom rents are $2,050 with an income limit of $107,568. For applicant households, there has to be between one to two people per bedroom, with a requirement for couples to share rooms. As well, future tenants will be responsible for hydro, heat, and hot and cold water, with parking costing extra. Applicants must also either be Canadian citizens, permanent residents (or have applied for permanent residency), or be a refugee claimant (or have refugee status). The apartments are slated for late-summer occupancy, according to the City’s Affordable Rental Homes webpage.

“Bringing these 150 affordable rental homes to the market is a milestone that our team is incredibly proud of. It marks an important step as part of the first phase of our Galleria on the Park community,” says Almadev CEO Rafael Lazer in an email statement to STOREYS. “The vision for this community took shape over the course of over 50 engagements with local community members and stakeholders, and we deeply understand the need for a diversity of housing in this Dupont neighbourhood.”

Lottery participants will be chosen by random selection. “Registrants that are selected from the random selection will be contacted in order, based on the highest ranking for their qualified unit type. If you qualify and are chosen, you will be sent an electronic registration form to complete,” according to Galleria on the Park’s Affordable Rental Portal. The landlord screening process requires successful applicants to provide proof of income, photo ID, and references.

By at least one measure, these rents are considerably lower than what’s available on average in Toronto, which routinely ranks as one of Canada’s most expensive rental markets. For example, landlords in the old city of Toronto were asking an average of $2,495 for a one-bedroom apartment in February or $3,541 for a two-bedroom unit, according to the March 2024 Report.

Once complete, the approximately 3,000-unit community — which in addition to a portion of affordable apartments features condos, a new eight-acre park, and 300,000-sq.-ft of retail space — will be home to around 6,000 people. The affordable units are found within the project’s first phase, which has a host of private amenities for residents, indoors and out. There’s a movie theatre, video-gaming room, social lounge, kids play room, dining room with chef’s kitchen, fitness area, change rooms, and sauna. An expansive terrace boasts barbecue and dining areas as well as a swimming pool.

Galleria on the Park isn’t the first landmark development project in Toronto to use the lottery process for its affordable-housing component. Last year, for example, renters could vie for one of 37 affordable units at Westbank Corp.’s Mirvish Village redevelopment of the iconic Honest Ed’s site. Since then, the city’s housing-affordability challenges haven’t abated. “We look forward to welcoming our first residents later this summer, as the housing crisis is more acute than ever,” adds Lazer.

Those looking to enter the Galleria on the Park affordable-rental lottery should be prepared to face some stiff competition, if past lotteries are any indication. The 37-unit Mirvish Village lottery attracted 8,429 applications, according to numbers provided to STOREYS by the City of Toronto, which helps direct the process. More recently, a lottery for 104 units at Canary Landing had received 6,520 applications by the time it closed on Aug. 27, 2023. While those odds aren’t great, you never know if you don’t try — and in this rental market, can you afford not to?