City Council took unprecedented steps this week to advance the creation and preservation of affordable rental and ownership housing in Toronto.
This week, Council adopted four reports that will help advance these goals by expanding the Housing Now initiative, introducing the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Program, implementing a new definition of “affordable housing” and launching a new Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) policy framework.
These initiatives will help create thousands of affordable homes within the next five years, helping the City meet the goals of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.
The Housing Now Initiative was approved by Council in January 2019 to use underutilized, City-owned lands to develop affordable rental housing within transit-oriented, mixed-income, mixed-use, and complete communities.
Council has voted in favour of expanding the program to include four additional sites, as part of the third phase of the program:
These four sites are estimated to provide between 1,150 and 1,400 new homes, including between 450 and 600 affordable rental homes. City Council has also approved six sites as part of a pipeline of future sites for the Housing Now Initiative. This will allow the City to undertake early due diligence work on these sites and more quickly develop them in future phases of the Housing Now Initiative to deliver even more market and affordable homes.
Housing Now sites aim to deliver new community benefits along with affordable rental homes. The East Scarborough Storefront has played an integral role in the community around 4040 Lawrence Ave. E., and the City will continue to work closely with this important organization to ensure the future development at 4040 Lawrence Ave. E. has a minimal impact on their operations.
Housing Now is a key component of the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan and is central to enabling the City to meet its target of creating 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes, by 2030. Since 2019, 17 sites have been included as part of Phases One and Two of the Housing Now initiative and are currently in various stages of development. Several sites have completed the re-zoning process, and three have development partners selected with construction estimated to begin in 2022.
Through the planning approval process, the original residential targets set for the Housing Now initiative were exceeded, as an estimated 13,479 new homes are being created. This includes 3,037 ownership homes and 10,142 purpose-built rental homes, of which 5,005 will be affordable.
The new affordable rental homes to be created under this program will provide much-needed housing options for households earning between $21,000 and $68,000 per year, which means these homes will be affordable for Toronto’s essential workforce, including practical nurses, early childhood educators and construction labourers. Deeper levels of affordability may be achieved for eligible households by adding additional housing benefits.
Read the Council item, Housing Now Initiative – Annual Progress Update and Launch of Phase Three Sites, on the City’s website.
This program will provide grant funding and Open Door Program incentives, which offer exemptions from property taxes and waiver of application fees, to qualified non-profit and Indigenous housing groups to assist them to purchase and renovate existing market rental properties. These properties will be used to create permanently affordable rental homes for Toronto residents with low-and-moderate incomes.
The new MURA Program will help:
The MURA Program will be implemented through an annual open call for proposal process to establish a list of qualified and experienced non-profit and Indigenous housing providers. Selected proponents will be given pre-approved available funding, which would provide certainty and allow them to move quickly to secure properties available for purchase. Proponents will have up to one calendar year from the date of approval to submit properties for consideration. To advance the City’s commitments to truth, reconciliation and justice, it is also proposed that 20 per cent of the annual funding allocations under the MURA Program be dedicated to support acquisitions by Indigenous housing organizations for Indigenous peoples.
Read the Council item, New Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Program to Protect Existing Affordable Rental Homes, on the City’s website.
The new definitions of affordable rental housing, mid-range rents and affordable ownership housing better respond to the needs of low-and moderate-income households in Toronto. The development of the definitions was informed by extensive public and stakeholder consultation throughout 2020 and 2021 as well as through consultations on Inclusionary Zoning and the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan in 2019.
An income-based approach to affordable housing will help to ensure that rents and prices for affordable housing reflect the incomes of low-and moderate-income households in Toronto. The City’s existing definitions are tied to market rents, which have been rising faster than incomes, eroding who can afford housing that the City has secured. By tying the definitions of affordable housing to incomes rather than market rents, the City will be better able to ensure homes are affordable for residents over the long term.
The new affordable rental housing definition will lead to a reduction in affordable rents for studio units, one-bedroom units, and three-bedroom units compared to affordable rents under the current definition. Furthermore, the proposed revised definitions better align with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) affordability threshold, which sets affordability at no more than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income.
The recommended updated affordable rent limits and incomes served are:
The incomes served refers to the household income required such that affordable rent would cost no more than 30 per cent of a household’s income.
Updating the housing definitions in the City’s Official Plan is the first step in moving towards an income-based approach for affordable housing, as called for by the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan. The proposed revised definitions, combined with City policies and programs, such as the Inclusionary Zoning policy and the City’s Open Door and Housing Now programs, will help align municipal, provincial and federal housing policies and programs, and support the shared objectives of all governments to increase the supply of affordable housing, promote housing stability for residents and end chronic homelessness.
Read more about the Council item, Official Plan Amendment on Updating the Definitions of Affordable Rental and Ownership Housing, on the City’s website.
Earlier this week Council also approved staff’s plan to implement Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) in Toronto – the first city in Ontario to implement this tool – which will require that certain new developments in the city include affordable housing units.
Read more about the Council item, Inclusionary Zoning Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment and Draft Implementation Guidelines, on the City’s website.
“I am proud to have led City Council in approving these policies and programs this week that will get more affordable housing built in our city. These are the types of initiatives that we need to move forward with so that Toronto continues to grow as the vibrant and inclusive city that we call home. This is important action on the housing file that will translate very quickly to more shovels in the ground across the city. And those shovels will build thousands of new places for working young people and working families to call home.”
– Mayor John Tory
“I’m pleased to have Council’s support of these important new policies and programs that will help to expand and retain much needed affordable housing in our city. All residents of Toronto deserve to have a safe place to live and not feel that having something as vital as a place to call home is out of reach.”
– Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Davenport), Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee
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