Key elements include creating a new city affordable housing corporation (TAHC), saving current affordable housing, a tenant advocate, faster approvals, mayoral candidate says
Toronto – Mitzie Hunter, mayoral candidate, has issued a five-point plan to guarantee more, new affordable housing, more quickly, for the people who need it most.
Hunter’s detailed and practical five-point plan includes:
• Unlock public lands for more new affordable housing
• End the multiplex ban
• Add rental apartments on major streets and near campuses
• Speed up building approvals and construction
• Protect renters and save current affordable housing.
The centrepiece of the plan is a new Toronto Affordable Housing Corporation (TAHC) as well as a new Tenant Advocate plus faster building approvalsand saving current affordable housing.
“We are in a housing crisis,” says Hunter. “Buying a home in Toronto is now out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is up 22 per cent to $2,500 a month, far beyond the reach of many people.
“The only way out of this mess is to add more affordable housing to meet demand and lower price escalation for renters and buyers alike. My plan does this.”
In developing her plan, Hunter drew on her experience as CAO of Toronto Community Housing prior to being MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood and a senior cabinet minister.
Here is how Hunter’s five-point housing plan works:
• Unlock Public Lands for Below-Market Ownership Opportunities and Rental Apartments:
o Build housing into every City-led development, including libraries, community centres, subway & LRT stations and Green P parking lots, and the vast majority of these new units can and must be affordable.
o On her first day as Mayor, Hunter will issue a proclamation stating that “there is no such thing as surplus City land” to make it clear to all that there is no greater priority than leveraging City properties to develop as much affordable housing as possible.
o Establish a new Toronto Affordable Housing Corporation (TAHC)which will:
▪ Be responsible for the development on public land of purpose-built below-market rate rental apartments and affordable ownership units in buildings of between 10 and 20 storeys which are suitable for small and medium sized lots across the city.
▪ Deliver a Phase One goal of starting 12 buildings in year one, starting 24 in year two, 30 in year three and 42 in year four for a total of 108 projects with the target of delivering nearly 22,700 units by the end of year six, providing housing for approximately 53,650 people.
▪ Deliver more affordable rental units than any currently announced plan including Housing Now:
• 5,660 units will be set at 100 per cent of AMR (25 per cent of all units),
• 3,468 units will be set at 80 per cent of AMR (15 per cent of all units), and
• 2,108 units will be set at 40 per cent of AMR (nine percent of all units).
▪ Build 5,320 purpose-built market rental units (23 per cent of all units) subject to annual rent control limits.
▪ Provide the only affordable ownership opportunities of any announced plan by building 6,136 “shared equity” purchase units (27 per cent of all units).
▪ Shared equity units will be units sold at 50 per cent of market value with 50 per cent retained by the TAHC. When a unit is sold, 50 per cent of the appreciated value is retained by the TAHC to reinvest in future projects.
▪ Ensure projects include on-site retail and on-site community space for satellite libraries and public health offices and childcare for larger developments.
▪ Add 17 acres of new public parks and greenspace across 68 TAHC developments.
▪ By the end of Phase 1 generate total earnings greater than the original City contributions allowing the TAHC to invest in more affordable housing projects on an on-going basis.
• End the multiplex ban:
o Build the “missing middle” by enabling Montreal-style low-rise multiplexes of up to four units on every residential lot in the city as of right meaning no need to seek slow and expensive variance approvals.
o This will increase rental and buying opportunities across the city and better accommodate multi-generational families by adding one or two units throughout existing neighbourhoods.
o The City will also provide up to $100,000 in forgivable low-interest loans for the cost of renovations or additions to create multiplexes. Modelled on the City’s Housing Initiatives Laneway Suites program, the annual payment will be forgivable every year that the unit is rented at below average rent.
o The City will also develop standardized designs for laneway and garden suites of various sizes to expedite approvals and review other City policies that can preclude yellowbelt development. We will also review opportunities for laneway and garden suites on Toronto Community Housing properties.
• Add rental apartments on major streets and near campuses:
o Turn our major streets into great streets – this means wide sidewalks, tree-lined boulevards, and shops and amenities within walking distance. This is only possible with greater density.
o Permit apartment buildings of up to eight storeys along the more than 1,200 kilometres of Toronto roads that are deemed to be “major streets” and also in new student housing zones, while continuing to identify opportunities for greater density.
o Create more permissive zoning in areas around postsecondary campuses including greater flexibility for dedicated student residences. Work with the Province to enable rental-only zoning tools, as has been enabled in Vancouver.
• Speed Up Building approvals and construction:
o Hire 15 more city planners and expedite development application reviews to get new housing approved more quickly.
o Speed up approvals by reviewing the City’s design guidelines and heritage designations that are too often used to slow or thwart new development.
o Make public consultations for housing projects more accessible and reflective through social media outreach, online meeting options and surveys that remain open for consultation.
o Use it or lose it: In a housing crisis, we can’t let land ready for new homes sit empty. To discourage unacceptable delays, we will work with the Province to introduce a tax on speculators with land and approved building permits.
o Make the Open Door program permanent, fast-tracking planning approvals for affordable housing.
• Protect Renters and Save Current Affordable Housing:
o Empower non-profit housing providers, co-ops and land trusts to aggressively increase their portfolios.
o Provide for the next two years a $50-million annual increase for the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program drawn from the Land Acquisition Reserve to support the purchase, renovation and operation of rental properties by non-profit housing providers, co-ops and land trusts.
o Ensure 20 per cent of projects are dedicated to Indigenous housingorganizations.
o Create a rapid deployment deposit program to enable purchases with the same speed as the private sector. This program helps save apartment buildings and multi-tenant houses that are either vacant or at risk of conversion to less affordable housing, while the City works to prevent demolitions of existing rental buildings.
o Increase eviction prevention services by expanding the Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) Program which supports vulnerable rental households to maintain their homes by adding six new positions and also triple the Rent Bank to 15 million per year.
o Create a Tenant Advocate role in the Legal Services division to help tenants fight illegal rent increases and fraudulent evictions with an annual budget of $5 million supported by 25 new Municipal Licensing & Standards inspectors in a new Rental Housing Integrity Unit with an annual budget of $4.5 million.
o Ensure all rentals on City land are subject to annual rent control limits and advocate to the Province to bring rent control back to all units.
o Hire 15 more building inspectors to increase building code monitoring and fines for property standard violations in condos and apartment buildings, including elevator and appliance repair, temperature control and pests. Fund from Building Code Act Service Improvement Reserve.
Hunter’s housing plan is the most detailed, practical and comprehensive plan issued by any mayoral candidate. It is fully costed and will have a net cost of $166 million over the next two years. It is part of her budget plan to be issued before voting begins in June.
“We can do this, we must do it, and if we are to have a city that works for everyone, everywhere, we must guarantee the supply of affordable housing for renters and owners alike, and not just hope creating the conditions for that is enough,” says Hunter.
“The verdict is in – it hasn’t worked. And everybody knows it. So let’s grab control of the levers as a city and get it done ourselves.”