City eyes North York for affordable housing

Council seeks to build mixed income community near Leslie and Sheppard

Last December, councillors and city staff identified 11 publicly owned sites to include in the new Housing Now initiative, which will guide the development of mixed income communities across the GTA.

One of those properties is an 8.5-acre piece of land located at 251 Esther Shiner Blvd. This parcel is currently occupied by City of Toronto Fire Services, Transportation Services and Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, but due to its proximity to transit and the nearby North York General Hospital (NYGH), it’s viewed by many as an ideal area to develop a community with affordable units.

“From Leslie to Bayview, all the developments through there that have come as a result of the subway, this will be the first time we are adding some affordable units to the mix,” said Shelley Carroll, councillor for Don Valley North. “We will get in this project, if we play it right.”

“In all of those approvals 20 years ago to now, there is not one affordable unit.”

With the new Bessarion Community Centre scheduled for completion in 2021, and an eight-acre park already complete at Concord Park Place (another large residential development in the works), the developers guiding the intensification in the area around Bayview Village have been conscious of the needs of the greater community. Parks, community centres, transit and other services have been at the forefront of development, but Carroll maintains that affordable housing, and especially deeply affordable housing, is missing.

“In all of those approvals 20 years ago to now, there is not one affordable unit,” said Carroll. “And that really has to be addressed.”

When publicly owned land enters the equation, said Sean Galbraith, an affordable housing advocate and urban planner in Toronto, governing bodies can better guide the development of more affordable housing, but adequate, sustained funding is necessary to addressing the shortage of affordable units in this city.

“Deeply affordable housing needs public money inputs, and a lot of it, when you have the unit deficit and wait list that Toronto has,” he said.

Although specific plans won’t be entertained for a few more months, it is not too early for preliminary discussions.

“Stable housing is an important contributor to someone’s health,” said Dr. Joshua Tepper, president and CEO of the hospital. “We look forward to working with the city … to use this announcement as an opportunity to meet the different, growing health needs of our community.”