Housing Now report recommends actions to move three shovel ready site forward, calls on all orders of government to help deliver more than 12,000 purpose-built affordable and market rental homes

2023 April 20

Despite challenges created by the pandemic, the City of Toronto’s Housing Now program is making progress with a pathway to move forward three shovel ready sites and a plan to get more sites under construction to deliver more homes in Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York.

The City of Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee will consider a progress update on the City’s Housing Now initiative on Thursday, April 27. The report provides an update on the program to date and recommends a number of urgent actions for all orders of government to unlock purpose-built affordable and market rental housing supply in all neighbourhoods across Toronto. Implementation of these actions will support the development of over 16,000 homes, of which 12,000 are planned as purpose-built rental homes with almost 5,500 being affordable rental homes.

If approved by committee and Council, this report will ensure that construction begins on three sites (Bloor-Kipling Block 1, 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. and 140 Merton St.) this year, creating a minimum of 1,949 affordable and rental units.

Housing Now is a signature affordable housing program in Toronto and across Canada. It was approved by Toronto City 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 to support 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 Housing Now sites. To date, ten of these sites have been re-zoned and market offerings have been completed for six of them.

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, macroeconomic factors including significant increases in construction costs and interest rates, labour shortages and global supply chain disruptions have impacted Housing Now projects, as well as other residential projects in Toronto and across Canada. Recent changes to the federal National Housing Co-Investment Fund also resulted in grant funding being capped at levels insufficient to support the cost of developing new affordable housing in Toronto. On top of this, implementation of Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act by the Government of Ontario has eliminated housing services from Development Charges revenues, which has been the City’s primary funding tool to support the delivery of new affordable housing supply.

The need for more purpose-built affordable and market rental housing in Toronto is urgent. The current residential vacancy rate in Toronto is around 1.7 per cent. There are more than 10,800 people experiencing homelessness each night and about 40 per cent of the city’s renter households (around 220, 000 households) are living in unaffordable housing.

The City and its non-profit and private sector partners are ready to build more than 12,000 purpose-built rental homes including 5,500 affordable rental homes in the short and medium terms. However, immediate and coordinated action across all orders of government are needed to remove hurdles and unlock shovel-ready Housing Now sites. The report recommends providing direction on three shovel ready sites (5207 Dundas St. W., 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. and 140 Merton St.) and advancing other sites.

Key actions recommended in the report include:

  • increasing grant funding to reflect local market conditions
  • taking a geographic approach to sites (including unit mix, tenure and grant levels)
  • enhancements to federal programs including those managed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank, including making some cost-neutral program changes
  • reimbursement of lost revenues due to Bill 23 plus new financial investments by the Government of Ontario to support shared housing supply goals

The Housing Now Initiative aims to deliver 10,000 affordable rental homes (which is 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 of Toronto, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada to meet 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 City continues to expedite the development review of Housing Now files, despite the broader macroeconomic factors and other challenges facing affordable housing delivery. The site-specific zoning by-law for 5207 Dundas St. W. will also be considered at the April 27 Planning and Housing Committee meeting. This item delivers on the reporting targets set in the Housing Action Plan 2022-2026 Work Plan by providing 58,435 square metres of residential gross floor area, for an estimated 67 more homes than presented to Council in 2021 through By-law 825-2021. City Planning led an expedited approvals process in 81 days from submission to statutory public meeting to support the approval of a shovel-ready project.

The full Housing Now 2023 Progress Update report is available on the City’s website .

More 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 on the City’s website.