Toronto mayoral candidate and current City Councillor Josh Matlow announced plans for a $300M affordable housing initiative on Tuesday that would see the redevelopment of City-owned lands.

Matlow is proposing a new City agency, dubbed Public Build Toronto, that would develop the lands itself, building housing at cost and removing developer profits from the equation. He says the City already owns 25M sq. ft of public land that can be redeveloped -- enough to build 100,000 new homes -- including Green P and TTC parking lots.

“To deliver truly affordable housing we need to move forward with Public Build Toronto, which will allow us to provide housing at cost,” Matlow said. “The City already has the expertise on its payroll to manage housing construction -- let’s put them to work for us instead of giving contracts to the private sector.”

Public Build Toronto would borrow from Vienna's "revolving fund" model of housing, which focuses on self-sufficient buildings with limited profits. The profits that the Toronto buildings do generate, Matlow says, would be reinvested into the city through the construction of new housing.

Although exact unit mixes would need to be determined through "extensive consultation," the developments would house a combination of market-rate, affordable, and deeply affordable units. Matlow says the initial $300M investment could fund for the establishment of Public Build Toronto, as well as for the construction of 8,250 rent-controlled market apartments and 6,750 affordable apartments, including 750 deeply affordable units.

"Of those new apartments, 10% would be three-bedroom units and 20% two-bedroom units," a news release reads. "The buildings would be financially self-sustaining, with ongoing maintenance costs included in rental fees. Through rents, $60M would be generated annually for new construction."

Matlow says the agency would be established by enabling the already existing CreateTO and Housing Secretariat staff "to directly hire construction companies and partner with non-profit or co-op builders." He notes the differences between it and the City's existing Housing Now program, which builds homes through public-private partnerships with for-profit developers.

"This model was attractive as the City did not have to invest any money upfront before contracts were signed, but it has not yet led to one shovel in the ground, and was not designed to provide much housing for those on low or fixed incomes," the release reads.

The initiative ties directly into another of Matlow's platform points: stopping construction of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway. By halting the ongoing $1B elevated re-build project and instead rebuilding the roadway at street level, Matlow says this would free up the $300M needed for Public Build Toronto from the City's capital budget. He also notes that having an at-grade boulevard will open up 5.4 acres of City land for residential construction.

“Rebuilding the eastern section of the Gardiner is a black hole sucking away hundreds of millions of dollars that we need for real priorities, especially when there’s a preferred alternative option to being the only city in the entire world rebuilding an expressway along the waterfront,” Matlow told STOREYS in March.