People were skeptical when Mayor John Tory first announced his affordable housing platform during his 2018 municipal election campaign.

But now Tory is following through on his word after the city’s realty agency signed off on business cases for four unspecified sites within the city. These are part of the mayor’s larger Housing Now program.

READ: 651 Affordable Housing Units Have Been Proposed For Toronto

Apparently, there is a plot midtown (less than an acre) and a huge eight acre lot somewhere in North York. The other two plots (measuring seven and two acres) are determined to be in Scarborough. Taken together, they will comprise 989 affordable rental units constructed on city-owned land as part of a larger developmental infrastructure which will include market housing, parks, child care centres and office and retail units. Tory’s explicit goal was to build 40,000 new affordable units within the next 12 years.

Since its 2016 launch, the Housing Now program has approved 6,694 affordable units, as reported by the Mayor’s office to the Toronto Star. However, a mere 237 of these units have actually been completed. There are another 782 units under construction, 163 of which will be finished by 2020.

READ: Activists Need City Of Toronto’s Help To Make Affordable Tower A Reality

On Tuesday, the CreateTO board heard the news that the units themselves are expected to cost $180,000 each. The city is leasing $100 million worth of land for developers to build on.

There will be an additional $71 million in financial incentives across the sites as well. The names of which developers are being used for the projects is being kept under wraps for the time being – so as not to interfere with standard bidding processes.

City Councillor Ana Bailao, the Tory-assigned affordable housing advocate and a CreateTO member, said that this move is unprecedented. “We never had this kind of investment from the city,” Bailao told the Toronto Star. “These are very credible organizations in the industry,” she said. “There’s people with lots of experience on our staff.”

READ: Toronto Is One Of The Worst North American Cities For Affordable Housing

The city’s housing secretariat Sean Gadon told CreateTo board members that the sites are being used to the best of their potential – ensuring the maximum number of spaces. Housing is also guaranteed to remain affordable for the next century. “It is a terrific public outcome, if we are able to achieve it,” he said.

So what exactly does affordability look like? It should be no higher than 80 per cent of the city’s average market rent (as calculated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). The Toronto Star reported that an average market rent for a one-bedroom is listed at $1,270 per month – so 80 per cent of that would make the rent $1,016 monthly. That average one-bedroom must be using all of Toronto’s boroughs to reach that low number.

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BlogTO recently reported that a one-bedroom rental in Toronto’s core has hit $2,260 on average. The Toronto Star reported that “average market rent is far lower than what you would pay to rent an apartment available today as the CMHC calculation is based on the rent paid in occupied, purpose-built rental units many of which have housed the same tenants for years and are protected by rent control.”

That’s good news for would-be affordable housing residents! That said, it’s nearly impossible for anyone making minimum wage to afford above $1,000 of rent per month, so it will still be a bit of a stretch.

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