In all the recent discussion in Toronto regarding revamping Section 37 in Ontario and providing proper allocation for affordable housing, especially along the Avenues, there is no talk on where these types of units will be located.
Sure there has been a recent trend in Toronto’s development industry towards building of new market-rate rental housing units instead of condominiums, but that still does not solve the problem of affordable housing.
Sure we will applaud Vancouver developer Westbank Corp to committing to rental housing at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor replacing the storied Honest Ed’s. But these until will also be market-rate rental.
But therein lies the problem of providing appropriate levels of affordable housing along transit corridors where many of its riders are located. University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski’s report “Three Cities within Toronto” much of the middle income will be all but gone and lower income residents will be located in the peripheries by 2025. This is assuming that there will be no major policy changes that in the next 10 years, especially ones that lead to affordable housing and equitable income distribution according to the report (Hulchanski, 27).
The lack of affordable housing in cities has become a national crisis in cities on both sides of the border and action must be taken. Los Angeles Metro is being encouraged to get in the game. In the Los Angeles Times editorial, they encourage Metro’s Board of Directors to vote yes on providing affordable housing along transit lines.
On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors will consider setting a goal that 35% of all apartments and condos built on land no longer needed by Metro be set aside for low-income residents. To that end, the agency would, for the first time, offer its land for lease or sale at below-market cost for projects that include affordable units. In addition, Metro would kick in $10 million to a new trust fund that would provide seed money to developers to build low-income housing.
35% is a good starting point but it realistically might be whittled down to 25%-30%. Those are aggressive targets that are not even encouraged within Ontario’s Section 37 guidelines.
TTC, for example, already has a Property Development Department. The Property Acquisition Management Plan outlines criteria on takings for acquiring property which includes their Secondary Exit Strategy for subway stations. Many of the other transit agencies resort to their city or region’s real estate departments for taking on rapid transit projects.
It already is a foregone conclusion that many residents of these newly built high rise condominium projects masked as transit-oriented development will use their cars more than using transit. It is those lower and middle income residents who are captive or choice riders who use transit the most. It makes good business sense for transit agencies to explore this opportunity.
It is essential that transit agencies across Canada look beyond its ridership numbers and operations and collaborate with other city departments to follow Los Angeles’ lead. It’s time cities be creative by thinking outside the box on affordable housing.
UPDATE: The Metro Board of Directors approved the Mayor’s initiative to have 35% of their properties developed as affordable units. Press release here.