Toronto getting back in the housing business with $30 billion plan

When a plan comes with tag of it being a “generational transformation,” that is setting the bar pretty high. But the new $30 billion housing plan from the city of Toronto could be one of those rare times a government strives for greatness.

This is a plan that first and foremost gets the city of Toronto back in the business of building public housing for the first time in decades and includes the ambitious goal of constructing 60,000 new homes in the next seven years.

The plan moves to put in serious protections for renters, crack down on problematic landlords and renovictions and, perhaps most controversially, requests the province return rent control to buildings constructed after 2018.

It is also important to note that the housing plan outlined for the meeting of city council’s executive meeting on Oct. 24 does not often reference the private sector, which is a monumental change from the previous government under John Tory.

“We urgently need to build more affordable housing faster, so people in our city can find a home they can afford. That’s why we’re leading a generational shift in both how we deliver housing and the type of housing we’re going to build,” said Mayor Olivia Chow, in a statement. “We’re coordinating all City divisions to pull in one direction – building housing faster – and we’re setting new priorities to build rent-geared-to-income and not-for-profit housing. This report lays out a housing roadmap and we invite the federal and provincial governments to join us. Working together, we can quickly deliver thousands of units of affordable housing over the next few years. We’re ready to build.”

The financial landscape

Creating a brighter future for Toronto’s residents comes with a substantial financial commitment. To turn this ambitious vision into reality, the city is requesting significant financial support from the provincial and federal governments. The call is for grants ranging from $500 million to $800 million per year, in addition to low-cost loans. These financial injections are envisioned to facilitate the construction of between 17,000 and 18,000 homes within three to four years, offering a promising solution to the city’s housing shortage.

The estimated cost to deliver 60,545 new rent-controlled homes is substantial, ranging between $28.6 billion and $31.5 billion.

City as a public builder

An integral part of this ambitious plan is the city’s role as a public builder on select sites and control all aspects of the process from start to finish. Instead of working with private or non-profit developers, the city is taking the lead on five “housing-ready” sites.

These sites, including 405 Sherbourne St., 150 Queens Wharf Rd., 1113-1117 Dundas St. W., 11 Brock Ave. and 25 Bellevue Ave., will serve as examples of the city’s commitment to public housing.

Collaboration with other levels of government

The plan includes dozens of requests to the federal and provincial governments, not only for funding but also for legislative changes aimed at preventing house-flipping and renovictions. These requests underscore the city’s commitment to ensuring that housing remains stable and affordable for its residents.

For example from Ontario, the city is requesting, in part:

  • re-introducing rent control to cover units occupied after Nov. 15, 2018,
  • immediately waiving the PST on all purpose-built rental housing projects,
  • allowing for Inclusionary Zoning to be applied across the city,
  • removing right of appeal for projects with at least 30 per cent affordable housing in which units are guaranteed affordable for at least 50 years

Awaiting response on the Housing Accelerator Fund

The City of Toronto remains eagerly awaiting a response to its Housing Accelerator Fund application, personally overseen by Mayor Olivia Chow. This fund is a pivotal aspect of the plan, aimed at increasing housing supply and spurring the production of purpose-built affordable and market rental homes.

Toronto’s $30 billion housing plan is a testament to the city’s determination to build a better future for its residents and to forge its own path working with the public sector and community organisations to advance its agenda.

By setting ambitious targets, seeking financial support, and taking on a leadership role in housing construction, Toronto is sending a clear message: it is committed to tackling its housing crisis head-on.

There are surely a number of items the other levels of government will respond to almost immediately. Should be interesting.


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