Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee met on Thursday to review the annual progress update for the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan (alongside a number of other items centring around housing accessibility and development).
The update from the Housing Secretariat rather notably revealed that 15,000 affordable and deeply affordable homes are “stuck” in Toronto’s development pipeline and in need of federal and provincial grant funding and low-cost financing.
As such, the Housing Secretariat’s report called for over $15B in inter-government funding — $7.6B and $7.7B from the governments of Ontario and Canada, respectively — to support the delivery of the HousingTO Plan. That ask was echoed by council at Thursday’s meeting.
In addressing city staff, Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, Councillor Gord Perks, noted that the federal and provincial governments “essentially stepped out of the housing game” in the mid to late 1990s.
“And the consequences of that absence are being felt today. All you have to do is look at one of the downtown parks in the city of Toronto, where, despite living in one of the wealthiest places in human history, there’s somebody living in a tent,” Perks said.
“We will not solve the housing problem in the City of Toronto just by zoning bylaws or some tax relief. We need governments to step up [with] public investment in social housing.”
Revised RGI Registration Deadline Tabled, Carried
Councillor Perks also tabled a motion at Thursday’s meeting in response to the ongoing migration of existing rent-geared-to-income (RGI) applications to a new online system, known as MyAccesstoHousingTO. Applicants have been informed that failure to register with the online portal by September 30 will result in applications getting cancelled.
Perks’ motion, which was carried unanimously, directed the Housing Secretariat to extend the deadline to “at least” January 31.
He also requested the “assessment in advance of that revised deadline whether there is a further need to extend the deadline” and a two-year “grace period” in which applicants who have not transitioned to the online system by the deadline are able to maintain the date they last applied for RGI housing.
As well, Perks expressed the need to ramp up the support services available to RGI applicants, including more trained support workers who can help waitlisted applicants to better navigate the transition to the new online system, as well as more staff at the city’s Application Support Center.
Gentle Intensification Met With Mixed Reviews
Also on the docket at Thursday’s meeting was a new Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods initiative, which, more specifically, was seeking as-of-right zoning for townhouses and small-scale apartment buildings (up to 6 storeys and capped at 30 units) on major streets and designated neighbourhoods.
“Expanding permissions for a wider variety of residential buildings to be constructed in Toronto’s neighbourhoods is intended to diminish the difference between extremes of residential growth across the city,” said a report prepared by the Chief Planner and Executive Director for City Planning.
“This expansion will add more people into neighbourhoods where existing infrastructure and services can be used more efficiently, and to give more Torontonians access to live in low-rise neighbourhoods.”
Though this item was adopted by Council on Thursday without amendments, it has already been met with some skepticism. Critics have questioned the inclusion of a 30-unit cap and whether the initiative will go far enough in insighting meaningful change.