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Council votes on fast-tracking affordable housing in railway lands

Next week City Council will consider fast-tracking construction of rental housing in the railway lands.
The site at Block 36 North, between Bathurst and Queen’s Wharf Road, north of Fort York Boulevard, has been vacant for more than 20 years and has been set aside to use for affordable housing. With Fort York Library and the proposed Project: Under Gardiner public spaces to the south and the new Creek Park to the west, the 0.38-acres site is in a particularly attractive location for developers. The city is hoping a non-profit organization or private company will take the lead on building there.
If council supports the item, the director of the Affordable Housing office would report by June 2016 on a successful non-profit or private-sector partner to develop and operate at least 80 new affordable rental housing units on the site for up to 50 years. With its current zoning, the site could accommodate a residential building of between six and nine stories, but the city could be more flexible than usual on the particulars of a proposal.
The fact-track approach comes out of the city’s Open Door Program, adopted last April, which aims to “unlock opportunities on public land” by creating policies to allow the city to have more flexibility working with housing providers—for example, reduced parking requirements, less red tape and more collaborative in funding strategies. In 2010, council set a goal of creating 1,000 affordable rental and 200 affordable ownership homes annually.

“Progress in meeting our goals was made during the past five years with some 2,792 new affordable rental and 750 new affordable ownership homes being completed,” states the letter to council from Mayor John Tory and councillor Ana Bailão advocating for the program. “But we are falling behind…. At the current pace, by 2020 the city will significantly under- achieve our affordable housing objectives by an estimated 6,810 rental and 734 ownership homes. It is clear the city must refocus its efforts if it is to meet the 10-year affordable housing targets…. We can do better by addressing key factors that reduce the cost of doing business and thereby increase affordability.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City Council
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