After a months-long push from Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow for a City-led development model, the first public building site has officially been announced.
The City will develop 11 Brock Avenue, the former site of an LCBO in Parkdale just north of Queen Street West, into a 40-unit rent-geared-to-income supportive housing development. The project will be funded by a $21.6M commitment from the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative, as well as $3.4M in financial incentives from the City of Toronto which will come in the form of waivers of development charges and planning and building fees, as well as property tax exemptions.
The 11 Brock Avenue site is one of the five housing-ready sites identified by the City back in October, and will be the first of those five where the City's new public builder model will play out. The City says that by building the development themselves, they'll be able to oversee all aspects of the development process and "accelerate the delivery of homes for lower-income residents."
“Increasing the supply of supportive housing is critical to addressing homelessness in Toronto," Mayor Chow said. "Today’s announcement of federal funding for this much-needed housing is very welcome – and an example of the kinds of investment and partnership required to address Toronto’s housing and homelessness crisis. 11 Brock Ave. advances the City’s public builder model and I’m excited to see the Government of Canada supporting this generational opportunity to get back into the business of building housing.”
Each of the 40 units will be a private studio apartment with a kitchenette and bathroom, and will be dedicated to people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness. With a rent-geared-to-income policy in place, tenants will pay no more than 30% of their income or the shelter allowance of their income support benefit. Residents will also have access to communal amenities within the building.
A not-for-profit housing provider will be selected to operate the building, and will provide supportive services to residents intended to improve their health and well-being. The City says it will issue a request for proposals for a building operator by the end of 2023.
"People experiencing homelessness face daily challenges to their health, safety and overall well-being," said Councillor Gord Perks, who represents Parkdale and is the Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee. "The Rapid Housing Initiative allows us to deliver safe, sustainable, long-term housing with appropriate supports to people who need it the most."
Chow's plan to have the City act as a builder has received mixed reviews from those in the development industry. While some see it as a promising start, others are more skeptical of the City's ability to pull off the construction of a residential building — an often risky endeavour — without private sector involvement. Some point to the fact the Housing Now model, which notably was an initiative of Mayor Chow's predecessor, took years to go from concept to construction — a glaring example of the City's ability to move extremely slowly.
Chow, however, is hopeful, saying in a previous interview with STOREYS that if public development of the five identified sites is successful with speedy delivery, there are more than 70 sites in the pipeline that stand to be developed in the same manner, including 47 additional City-owned sites and 31 non-profit-owned sites.