City of Toronto makes progress on Housing Now Initiative, construction at first site beginning in July

2023 June 15

The City of Toronto is making good progress on the Housing Now Initiative (Housing Now), creating new affordable rental housing on City-owned lands within mixed-income and complete communities.

Construction is expected to begin in July at 5207 Dundas St. W. and at two other shovel-ready sites, 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. and 140 Merton St., before the end of this year.

On May 11, Toronto City Council adopted the Housing Now 2023 Progress Update report. The report provided an update on Housing Now and recommended urgent actions for all orders of government to unlock purpose-built affordable and market rental housing supply in all neighbourhoods across Toronto. Additional City support was also approved to unlock these sites within the current challenging macroeconomic and legislative climate. Implementation of these actions, if combined with investments from the provincial and federal governments, can result in the development of more than 16,000 homes, of which 12,000 are planned as purpose-built rental homes with almost 5,500 being affordable rental homes.

Housing Now is a signature affordable housing program in Toronto and across Canada. It was approved by Council in January 2019 to activate City-owned lands to stimulate the development of affordable rental housing within transit-oriented, mixed-income, mixed-use, complete communities. It is also a key housing supply program that supports the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan target of 40,000 new affordable rental homes and Housing Action Plan 2022-2026 target of 285,000 homes by 2031.

To date, the City has committed more than $1.3 billion in land value, capital funding and financial incentives to the program, making Housing Now one of the most significant municipal financial investments in housing underway today.

Since approval of the Housing Now Initiative in January 2019, Council has allocated 21 prime transit-oriented sites. To date, 10 of these sites have been re-zoned and market offerings have been completed for six of them.

The City continues to work as quickly as possible with non-profit and private sector developers to get shovels in the ground while navigating a number of external challenges. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant increases in construction costs and interest rates, labour shortages and global supply chain disruptions have affected Housing Now projects, as well as other residential projects in Toronto and across Canada.

Legislative changes by other orders of government have also slowed down Housing Now progress. Recently, the Government of Canada made changes to the federal National Housing Co-Investment Fund that resulted in grant funding being capped at levels too low to support the cost of developing new affordable housing in the Toronto. At the same time, the Province of Ontario’s Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, eliminated housing services from Development Charges revenues, which was the City’s primary funding tool to support the delivery of new affordable rental housing supply.

The need for more purpose-built, affordable and market-rental housing in Toronto is urgent. About 40 per cent of the city’s renter households (around 220,000 households) live in unaffordable housing. The current residential vacancy rate in Toronto is around 1.7 per cent. As well, more than 10,500 people are considered actively homeless, having used the City’s shelter system at least once in February, March and April.

Housing Now aims to deliver 10,000 affordable rental homes – one third of the total homes that will be delivered through the program – within mixed-income, mixed-use and complete communities by 2030. These homes will be affordable to a range of households with a range of incomes, include low- and moderate-income households. Delivery of Housing Now will support the City, Government of Ontario and Government of Canada in meeting their respective housing supply, economic and population growth targets and most importantly, provide the types of housing needed for individuals and communities to thrive.

The full Housing Now 2023 Progress Update report  and information about the City’s 2020-2030 HousingTO Action Plan is available on the City’s website. The City’s Housing Action Plan 2022-2026: Priorities and Work Plan report to Executive Committee is also available online.