Willowdale residents oppose affordable housing site

Councillor said small group does not represent area

Toronto is proposing a new homeless housing site in the Willowdale area, but some residents are strongly opposed to the idea and have called the consultation process “undemocratic.”

The proposal for 175 Cummer Ave., near Yonge and Finch and next to a senior’s supportive housing site called Willowdale Manor, is part of the city’s Modular Housing Initiative.

The 10-year action plan approved in April 2020 aims to create 1,000 new modular homes for Toronto residents experiencing homelessness. Modular housing is created offsite and is reported to be less expensive and quicker to construct.

The city has already built two modular homes totalling 100 apartments at 11 Macey Ave. and 321 Dovercourt Rd. The Willowdale proposal is part of the second phase of the project, along with an east end location at Trenton Ave., which would include 60 studio apartments in a three-storey building.

“We have an extreme crisis of homelessness in the city with more than 1,000 people currently living in shelters, park encampments or bus shelters,” local councillor John Filion said. “The current situation doesn’t work for anybody, so the city is doing everything it can to try to deal with that.”

The homes will include support services to “help people turn their lives around,” Filion said and stressed that they are different from shelters in that they provide long-term housing.

However, a dozen residents have created a group called Voices of Willowdale that strongly opposes the project at 175 Cummer Ave. and says it has gained support from more than a thousand residents, as evidenced by a petition on Change.org.

“This entire process has been completely rushed, secret and poorly thought out,” said Sugy Kodeeswaran, a member of the group.

Kodeeswaran said that the city has not properly consulted the community about the project by not answering their questions and concerns and that officials have labelled residents “anti-homeless” as a way to quell conversation.

“[The process] has ruined the sense of democracy for a lot of community members,” she said.

Among the residents’ concerns is the location of the housing, which they say is on the “front lawn” of Willowdale Manor and will deprive the seniors there of much-needed living space, and is also not easily accessible to affordable groceries, the subway, or necessary health services.

“Pick a site that makes sense,” Kodeeswaran said, mentioning that the community has even suggested other locations in Willowdale.

Councillor Filion shot back at the Voices of Willowdale, though, saying it is a “small group of angry people who do not represent Willowdale at all,” and that they have been “spreading misinformation.”

“There has been more consultation on this than any application I can think of in recent years,” he said. “Your opinion should be based on facts, not scaremongering by a group that may have some other agenda.”

Article exclusive to TRNTO