In a sweeping effort to tackle homelessness in Toronto, the City has announced it will be moving forward with its $47.5 million plan to build 250 modular housing units to help those living in the shelter system.

The City announced the details of the supportive housing initiative on Wednesday, which will see the creation of 110 modular homes on two City-owned sites by September 2020. Horizon North, which recently constructed similar facilities in Vancouver, is the company set to design and build the units.

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The first phase will cost $20.9 million, of which $8.25 million in grants and loans is being provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The second phase of the pilot will see an additional 140 units built by April 2021.

Modular housing can be constructed more quickly than permanent housing because the materials are prefabricated in a factory and then transported to the site where they can be assembled at a lower cost and in a shorter timeframe than traditional housing construction models. But above all modular housing provides immediate relief for hundreds of people living without a home.

"We know helping people with supportive housing is good for everyone and modular housing is a way to make that happen faster," said Mayor John Tory. "The pandemic has heightened the need for supportive housing and I have asked City staff to move this project at an urgent pace. This partnership model for building and operating new supportive homes, through support from all orders of government and community partners, is critical to supporting the health, socio-economic and environmental well-being of residents."

At this time, it's not clear where exactly in Toronto the sites will be located, but City staff are now in the process of identifying City-owned/controlled sites that will be appropriate for the development of modular housing.

"We need a range of tools and housing options in order to truly tackle the homelessness crisis in our city. That’s why need to move forward with plans to create new modular housing units that can be built rapidly to provide supportive housing to those in need," said city councillor Joe Cressy.

Cressy says the approved units will help people transition from homelessness into secure housing, along with the provision of support services for individuals experiencing mental health and addictions challenges.

"This initiative is one more step in our multi-faceted approach to tackling homelessness and expanding access to affordable housing in our city," added Cressy.

This comes on the heels of a coalition of public-interest organizations that filed legal proceedings against the City earlier this month over what they call “deplorable” conditions in the Toronto's shelter system and respite sites amid the COVID-19 pandemic.