The City of Toronto is moving forward on its plan to increase the supply of affordable housing across the city. As part of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, the City committed to create 1,000 new modular homes in Toronto. The Modular Housing Initiative is an innovative and cost-effective way to build small-scale infill housing while providing a rapid, dignified response to connect people experiencing homelessness with homes and appropriate supports to help them achieve housing stability.

Modular housing, which is essentially prefabricated housing, is built off-site in a factory and transported to the site for assembly. City Council has approved the construction of the first 250 modular homes on City-owned sites in 2020 and 2021.

The first two modular buildings are already completed providing 100 new homes with support services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness:

Two new modular projects are under development to create an additional 124 new homes with support services by the end of 2021:

 

 

 

Reiderman Residence (Vancouver)

78 pet-friendly homes featuring a community kitchen and nutrition assistance, as well as opportunities for training and employment for residents.

Margaret Mitchell Place (Vancouver)

52 studio homes in a modular building featuring a community garden and housing-embedded services such as peer employment programs that provide sustainable opportunities for residents to form and join community.

 

220 Terminal Avenue (Vanvouver)

Vancouver’s first temporary modular housing project providing 40 social housing units to lower-income residents, including units designed to accommodate persons with accessibility requirements.

​​Naomi Place (Vancouver)

A one three-storey building containing 58 studio homes, primarily for single adults. All units are self-contained dwellings with a private bathroom and kitchen. Six units are wheelchair accessible.

What supportive housing (or housing with support services) is

Supportive housing is a combination of deeply affordable housing and on-site supports that enable people to live as independently as possible. Supportive housing can help people stabilize their lives, help them stay housed and positively contribute to communities. Learn more about supportive housing. 

How the modular sites are selected

City officials have reviewed City-owned sites across Toronto. Modular housing sites are selected based on demand for affordable housing, environmental condition and development potential, access to public transit, access to health and other community services, Official Plan and Zoning By-law considerations and site servicing.

Concerns about the proposed design of the modular buildings

City Planning and Urban Design staff are working with the project architects to ensure that the proposed buildings will fit into their respective neighbourhoods. The building materials and colour palette proposed aim to help the building fit-in to the local context in Toronto. The neutral colour palette, mix of textures, architectural features and use of wood on the exterior all help to create a building that is more refined and one that will stand the test of time

Along with the modular housing building, the project includes a detailed landscape design with the goal of helping the project fit in with the area through extensive plantings of trees and shrubs, as well as protecting privacy for adjacent properties.

Manufacturer of the modular buildings (Phase 2)

NRB Modular Solutions (formerly Horizon North), part of Dexterra Group, is the successful proponent of the RFP to manufacture the modular buildings for the City’s Modular Housing Initiative (MHI), Phase Two. NRB Modular Solutions is based in Grimsby Ontario.

A request for Supplier Qualifications (RFSQ) was released on  August 14, 2020 and closed on September 25, 2020.This allowed CreateTO and the City to shortlist potential, qualified modular manufacturers. A full Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued for the second phase of the Modular Housing Initiative on November 10, 2020 and closed on December 4, 2020. Based on this process the City selected NRB Modular Solutions.

NRB Modular Solutions is the same company that manufactured the modular buildings for the City of Toronto’s MHI Phase One. For Phase One, the terms of the proposed single source contract were reviewed and considered by Toronto City Council on April 30 2020.

Operation of the modular buildings

The City will select a qualified and experienced non-profit housing provider to manage the property and provide support services for residents. The City will continue to work with the selected housing providers after new residents will move in.

The City will be allocating housing subsidies to these modular units to ensure these homes are affordable to future residents. Additionally, the City, as part of its selection process, will select non-profit organizations that can demonstrate they are financially sound and viable, have sufficient operating funding to provide support services and have the experience and capability to successfully operate the project, including the provision of supports.

Tenant selection process

These modular homes are created for people currently experiencing homelessness. Future residents will be identified and referred through the City’s Coordinated Access processes and people experiencing chronic homelessness will be prioritized. Coordinated Access is a consistent community-wide approach to assessing, prioritizing, and connecting people experiencing homelessness to housing and supports.

Tenants for these units will be identified using a prioritization-based approach to connect people to this permanent housing opportunity. There will be no direct referrals. The City will coordinate the tenant identification process in partnership with street outreach, shelter, 24-hr respite, and hotel/motel program providers. A common assessment is used to understand the types and level of supports clients will need to maintain housing stability. The City will work with the selected non-profit housing operators to ensure tenants are connected with supports that best meet their needs. Consideration is given to the type and intensity of support and client choice in regard to their housing preferences.

Types of services offered

All services provided on the modular sites will be for residents only to help them achieve housing stability and prevent from return to homelessness. It is expected that a range of support and health services be provided including meal services, providing or connecting residents to primary health services, community supports and services such as: education; employment; and life skills. The modular buildings will not include supervised injection sites.

Concerns about neighbourhood safety

We do not anticipate any increased public safety issues in the neighbourhood as a result of the new modular housing projects. The properties will be managed by a non-profit housing provider who will be responsible to ensure that community concerns are addressed.

A study by the Wellesley Institute interviewed tenants, staff and neighbours of two supportive housing facilities in Toronto, Ontario, in order to understand their impact on the social and economic health of immediate neighbourhoods, the attitudes of neighbours to the facilities, and how these attitudes have changed over time.  The study found there is no evidence that the existence of the supportive housing buildings studied has negatively affected either property values or crime rates in the neighbourhood. Property values have increased and crime decreased in the period considered by the study.

Concerns about the expedited review process

About 7,800 people are using Toronto’s shelter system or sleeping rough. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has put significant pressure on the shelter system and created even more urgency behind the need to create affordable and supportive housing, City Council directed staff to prioritize the Modular Supportive Housing Initiative including expediting the necessary building and planning approvals.

The City Planning and Toronto Building divisions, along with all other City divisions, have appropriately allocated staff resources to process and review the required planning and building permit applications for the two modular housing sites in a streamlined and efficient manner. City staff have been actively engaged in the pre-application review process to proactively identify, prioritize and respond to possible issues or constraints in order to identify solutions efficiently.