Advocates and city councilors are hopeful that Toronto’s change in leadership ushers in an era of better housing policies and quick construction amid an ongoing housing shortage. But how will that be achieved?
Toronto’s new planning and housing committee is inheriting the task of not only alleviating the city’s housing shortage and affordability crisis, but also helping it achieve the city’s broader goals. goal of building 285,000 homes by 2031.
Comprised of the two councilmembers who supported and opposed Olivia Chow during the mayoral by-election, the committee may have some doubts about how they will work together to resolve the issue.
But the mayor, speaking to CBC Radio subway in the morning on Friday, he said he’s not worried about ideological differences getting in the way. If anything, he believes that having diverse perspectives can help drive more innovation and collaboration.
“What I’m seeing, which is really encouraging, is a real sense of commitment. Let’s try this,” Chow said.
The committee, with the Count. Gord Perks as President and former President and Town Planner Earl. Brad Bradford, as vice president, is tasked with fulfilling Chow’s campaign promise to build 25,000 rent-controlled homes over the next eight years.
And while it may be a lofty goal to put shovels in the ground within the next three years of Chow’s term, Perks says the city has no choice but to deliver if it wants to get ahead of the housing shortage.
“It just has to be done,” Perks said, adding that he is “excited” and “a little intimidated” to be chosen to lead the committee.
“The City of Toronto cannot succeed unless people of all income levels can find a place to live so they can do the work of helping us build the city.”
Who will focus on what?
Chow said he wants the committee to start by reviewing any pending private developer contracts, inventorying city land to engage nonprofit developers, or for the city to start building units through its real estate arm. CreateTO, and finding ways to keep tenants from being evicted.
Perks said his goal is to “put our foot on the gas” in four main areas. They include hiring new staff and planners; maximize existing programs as your rental acquisition initiative — where the city purchases buildings that would otherwise be sold to developers; build more low-income housing through nonprofit organizations, social housing, and cooperatives; and strengthen tenant protections.
Meanwhile, Bradford, who opposed Chow during the mayoral by-election and attacked his housing plans, says he wants to support Chow however he can, even if he doesn’t completely agree with his approach.
To do this, he said he will focus more on the planning side by moving forward with the right zoning, which means projects will largely avoid lengthy approval processes, building code reforms and speeding up timelines. of permissions, everything that could help developers. beyond the city get involved.
“The best thing local government can do is create an environment where it’s faster, easier and more affordable to deliver housing,” Bradford said.
The rest of the committee is made up of council members Jamaal Myers, Frances Nunziata, Michael Thompson and Josh Matlow, who was also Chow’s rival for mayor.
In related roles, Count. Paula Fletcher will be the mayor’s appointee at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and at CreateTO, which is the arm responsible for developing city-owned land, while the Earl.
Vincent Cristanti will serve at the Toronto Senior Housing Corporation.
What do residents want to see?
Damien Moule, a volunteer with the advocacy group More Neighbors Toronto, says the group cares less about who builds homes and more about how many homes are being built.
“Housing is housing. We need more,” Moule said.
“We’d like to see the rate of housing construction in the city, whether public or private, increase dramatically and rents and home prices stop rising as fast as they have.”
Mark Richardson, an affordable housing advocate and technical lead for HousingNowTO.com, a group of volunteers that tracks the progress of the city’s flagship affordable housing program, Housing Now, says he hopes the committee will learn from past mistakes and of long projects.
He cited the time lapse between the beginning of construction about the first Housing Now project earlier this week and the launch of the program in 2019.
“Hopefully Mayor Chow and her planning and housing committee have learned those lessons and are adaptive and agile,” Richardson said.
While ideological differences on the committee could be a point of tension, Richardson says the housing crisis is something that cuts across political fringes.
The only thing that matters now is that they work together, she says.
“It’s not about progressives and conservatives. It’s about delivery.”