Affordable housing plan moves forward at four Toronto sites

The City of Toronto has approved four sites for affordable housing developments — but not all residents are happy about it.

The city is offering its own land worth $100 million, according to a city report, for the four developments. The sites are located at 140 Merton St. in midtown, 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. in North York, 705 Warden Ave. and 777 Victoria Park Ave.

They are expected to add 3,700 new affordable rental units to the market. Units will be priced at at least 80 per cent of the current market average, according to  Susan O’Neill, the Housing Now director of communication.

The average asking rent in Toronto for a one-bedroom is $1,270, according to 2019 city data, but these units would be offered for around $1,016.

It is the first phase of the city’s Housing Now initiative that began in 2019 and includes 11 sites total.

The midtown location at 140 Merton St. will be an 18-storey building on the site of a rarely used parking lot, according to Coun. Josh Matlow.

The project will be geared towards seniors with at least 50 per cent of its units offered at an affordable price. It will also include a community hub for seniors at its base as well as space for other services such as non-profit seniors organization Sprint.

Residents of Davisville Village are concerned about growing density in the area. But Matlow said the development won’t add pressure to transit or schools because seniors don’t use those services in the same way.

“For a lot of seniors, if you don’t have a pension or your cost of living has gone up and your pension doesn’t cover it, and you have no new source of revenue in your life, it can be really scary,” he said. “This is what this building is meant to address.”

Meanwhile, the proposed location at 50 Wilson Heights Blvd., near the Wilson subway station, has some area residents concerned over the loss of a commuter parking lot.

City councillor James Pasternak explained that the site is currently an 885-car parking lot. He said it is used by commuters from the suburbs who drive to the subway and park their car to use the subway to travel into the downtown core.

Without the parking lot, Pasternak said people may now drive downtown, adding to traffic congestion.

Local resident David Pisarek, who uses the parking lot regularly, isn’t happy about the decision.

“I see no reason that has to be the spot for the development,” he said. “It will put extra costs on families who rely on being able to park at the subway.”

Pasternak said the city is working on a compromise. Options could include the creation of 400 spots to be shared between commuters and residents or expanding a parking lot at the Sheppard West subway station.

The proposed development will include 1,400 units. There will be approximately 300 with affordable rent geared towards “middle-income earners,” said Pasternak.

“[It is] not social housing or run by community housing,” he said. “They are below market private sector units, brand new, state of the art, that we put in the market.”

The city hopes to begin construction in late 2020, with the first units becoming available in 2023.