I applaud Mayor Tory for starting this term with a strong statement that providing affordable homes is a top priority through his Housing Now initiative. The strategy leverages public land in addition to waiving city taxes and fees to incent developers to build new housing. I completely agree with the mayor that this approach is worth serious consideration.
However, I do not believe that the details of this plan result in enough affordable housing options, nor I am I convinced that the type of housing proposed is actually affordable for many Torontonians who are struggling to find an apartment they can actually afford.
Developers bidding on the 11 Housing Now (City-owned) sites will have to provide affordable rents in only one-third of the new units constructed. Under the plan, “affordable” is defined as 80% of the market rate as determined by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. At present, that would mean a monthly rent of $1,136 as average monthly rents for a 1 bedroom was $1,420 in the old City of Toronto as of October, 2018. This places the program out of reach for many who need it. Further, the remaining two-thirds of new units are allowed to be split between market rental and market condos.
For the assets that we are giving up, almost 40 acres of land and $280 million in waived fees and taxes, I believe we can provide more for those in need of housing. That’s why I moved motions to request that 100% of the new units are rental and that the new landlords will not be able to raise the rent above the annual rate of inflation. This cap is more important than ever as Doug Ford’s provincial government recently allowed landlords to raise rents above the provincial guideline on newly constructed units. I also requested that the bids come back to Council so the public has an opportunity to evaluate the success of the program before any City land is sold.
Unfortunately, these motions, along with many sensible ones from my colleagues that would have improved Housing Now, were not supported by the mayor and Council. Regardless, I will continue to put forward reasonable and sensible suggestions for improvement and advocate to increase the supply of affordable housing to support Torontonians.
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