CreateTO — the City of Toronto’s specially-formed housing agency — is soldiering ahead with their ‘Housing Now’ initiative at 140 Merton Street, which is set to bring a 29-storey affordable rental building to the site.

A just-released site plan application comes with planning materials that were submitted to the City on May 13, 2024, and those describe 212,849 sq. ft of residential gross floor area (GFA) and 21,432 sq. ft of non-residential GFA. For the residential component in particular, it's set to include 244 one-bedrooms and 50 two-bedroom units, for a total of 294 new rental units specifically reserved for Indigenous elders and other seniors. The site is currently occupied by SPRINT Senior Care: a heritage-designated office building and community agency that provides services to midtown Toronto seniors ageing in place.

The CreateTO website explains that “SPRINT will be temporarily relocated next door and will return to 140 Merton Street once construction is completed,” and that “the City will also be providing an additional community space as part of the redevelopment for the future tenants of 140 Merton Street and the senior community in midtown Toronto.”

According to a planning letter submitted to city staff in May, CreateTO adopted a “business case” for the site in question on September 24, 2023, and abided by Preservation Board alterations on November 12 — a move meant to ensure “both development and preservation goals are met.”

Getting up to date: a planning letter from May 13, 2024, states that the City and CreateTO jointly announced Missanabie Cree First Nation and Ellis Don Community Builders as the development partners for 140 Merton Street. It adds that “the site is the first non-profit developed ‘Housing Now’ site led by an Indigenous organization and will be dedicated to providing housing options for Indigenous elders and other seniors.”

The planning documents go on to say that, over the past few months, “meetings have taken place with community planning, heritage planning, and urban design and forestry” to form the proposal as it currently stands. Construction on the site is targeted for September 2024, according to a June 5 progress update from CreateTO.

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The final zoning amendment report from the City from November 2019 additionally notes that the development will comprise of “approximately 180 new rental units on the site, with a minimum of 50% affordable rental units and an overall target of 100% affordable rental units.”

Should the Merton Street development get the City’s approval, it will represent marked progress in the City's ‘Housing Now’ initiative, which has caught some flack for its slow start.

Case and point: the initiative was approved in January 2019, but there wasn't any real headway made until August 2023, over four years later, when construction kicked off at 5207 Dundas Street West. That project is set to include 725 new rental homes and first occupancy is anticipated by 2027, according to the aforementioned June 5 progress update. In addition to the Dundas West site, the update also identifies 50 Wilson Heights Boulevard as a “priority site,” and notes that that project, once realized, will lead to the delivery of 1,484 new homes, including 520 affordable rentals, 520 market rentals, and 444 market condominiums.

In total, the City has identified 22 sites across Toronto for Housing Now since the program was launched. Collectively, these sites are estimated to produce over 16,000 new homes, with approximately one-third of those being affordable rentals.

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