Olivia Chow brought together various private and public stakeholders on Wednesday to discuss affordable housing development and a “holistic” approach to community building. This marked Chow's first transition meeting ahead of her term as Toronto’s mayor -- a role she will step into next week.

“Toronto needs to build more housing of all kinds. We need more affordable housing and to make sure that communities benefit through good local jobs and other opportunities when we have large development projects,” said Chow.

In remarks to the press, Chow acknowledged that she doesn’t have “all the answers” to the housing challenges facing the city. However, she is invested in the community-focused development model being pursued in Scarborough’s Golden Mile

“There are of course a lot of plans to redevelop this neighbourhood with a huge number of buildings so that it can meet the number of residents that are coming to the City of Toronto,” said the mayor-elect. “[The] challenge is how do you make some of it affordable, how do you integrate people, and how do you have a holistic community so it’s not just people living. They will also have the local libraries and community centres and parks and all of the social infrastructure that makes a neighbourhood successful.”

Wednesday’s meeting, co-organized by the United Way Greater Toronto, was held at the Victoria Park Hub, which is situated on the edge of the Golden Mile district. Chow was also joined by representatives from Working Women Community Centre, Toronto Community Benefits Network, Woodgreen Community Services, BMO Financial Group, Aecon, Sun Life, and The Daniels Corporation.

Of the attendees was Daniele Zanotti, President and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto. Alongside Darryl White, CEO of BMO Financial Group, Zanotti is a co-convener of the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity Initiative (ILEO), which is a pilot project focussed on strengthening the Golden Mile district by catalyzing economic opportunities and seeking innovative solutions to the housing crisis. United Way of Greater Toronto currently has five active ILEO projects in the Greater Golden Mile.

Olivia chow transition meeting 2 1024x683Left to right: Daniele Zanotti of United Way Greater Toronto, Darryl White of BMO Financial Group, and Mayor-elect Olivia Chow (Daria Perevezentsev)

Zanotti tells STOREYS that Chow has “recognized the potential for ILEO to be replicated in other high-growth neighbourhoods in the city based on the model’s success.”

“We know that there is a real opportunity to accelerate this work across the city and the Mayor-elect’s support will be important for this next stage,” he adds. “At United Way Greater Toronto, we know we need to all work together -- community, corporate, and civic partners -- to provide viable solutions to our city’s most urgent problems: affordable housing and local economic development."

In that vein, Chow emphasized on Wednesday that she will leverage partnerships with organizations like United Way of Greater Toronto, as well as private and civil stakeholders during her mayorship.

“The commitment that I heard today is extremely encouraging,” she told reporters. “People at this table are saying, ‘we are eager to work together to solve that challenge, to find a path forward.’”

But at the heart of her plan is a partnership with Toronto residents, Chow also said. “Instead of having a Blue-Ribbon Panel, I’m coming out to the community, listening, learning, and understanding.”

The next transition meeting will be held later this week. Chow is set to formally take office on Wednesday, July 12.

Cover photo: Daria Perevezentsev via United Way of Greater Toronto