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Midtown Toronto is set to get more rentals and affordable units after Toronto City Council agreed to leverage city-owned lands at 275 Merton St. to build 447 new purpose-built rental homes. The CreateTO project includes a minimum of 30% of the homes be designated as affordable.

The City led negotiations through CreateTO to form a development partnership with Toronto’s former Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s Collecdev-Markee to combine the property at 275 Merton St. with an adjacent site owned by the developer. CreateTO was formed in 2018 as the City of Toronto’s real estate agency and it manages the city’s $27B real estate portfolio. It develops City buildings and lands for municipal purposes.

The adjacent site at 267 Merton St. will be transferred into City ownership and then leased back to Collecdev-Markee along with the City-owned site for a period of 99 years to enable the redevelopment. Collecdev-Markee will deliver and operate the new rental homes while the City will retain ownership of both properties. Once leased to Collecdev-Markee, the development will follow the City’s standard planning application process, according to a press release.

“This sets the stage for a new partnership model in the City of Toronto for developing city owned lands as affordable housing,” Jennifer Keesmaat tells STOREYS. “Under the leadership of CreateTO, our goal was to pilot an expedited process. What typically takes five years, we just did in five months. This is great news for affordable housing delivery.”

The midtown location is a coveted and convenient one, especially for the non-drivers. “This land is within 500 metres of a subway station,” Keesmaat points out. “The neighbourhood is a complete community with remarkable amenities within walking distance, including parks, schools, and a grocery store, just steps away. As a result, we are not adding more cars to the city, just more homes. This is the kind of density we need to get away from a development model that has added too many cars and therefore congestion on our city streets.”

Construction of the 275 Merton project is anticipated to begin in the second half of 2025 with first occupancy in mid-2028.

“Through this partnership, the City is supporting a strategic land assembly that will deliver significant city-building benefits, including a substantial number of affordable and market rent-controlled homes,” said Toronto mayor Olivia Chow. “The proposed housing project is a much-needed step towards delivering on the City’s housing targets and will provide options for Torontonians of low-and moderate-income levels.”

The move comes as rents are increasingly out of reach for everyday Toronto residents. “Rising rents have made it increasingly unaffordable for middle income earners, essential workers and professionals to live in Toronto,” reads the release. “Creating a range of new rental homes including rent-geared-to-income, affordable rental and rent-controlled homes is critical in addressing the housing needs of Toronto’s current and future residents.”

Recent figures reveal that the city’s rent prices have reached record-high levels. With the second-highest rents in Canada (behind the notoriously pricey Vancouver), one-bedroom rents in Toronto are now going for an average of $2,479, and two-bedrooms are at $3,284.

“One of the key aspects of the City’s HousingTO Plan is to use City lands and partnerships to enable the delivery of housing. We are at a critical moment in Toronto and we are finally building the housing we need in this city,” said Councillor Gord Perks (Parkdale-High Park), Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee. “Projects like this at 275 Merton Street are all part of the solution to bring real affordability to the people of Toronto and people who want to call Toronto home.”

The move comes at the same time the City of Toronto has passed a motion to ban renovictions in the city.

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