Monday, October 28, 2019
By Donovan Vincent
Two aging Toronto Community Housing buildings in Toronto’s east end will be demolished to make way for new social housing units and what Mayor John Tory described as much needed affordable and market rental units in the city.
A total of 120 rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units at Don Summerville Apartments, two six-storey buildings at 1555-1575 Queen St. E. near Coxwell Ave., will be replaced by 120 new RGI units, 100 affordable rental apartments (with rents set at no more than 80 per cent of the city’s average market rent), 180 market-price rental units and 350 condo units.
The joint project between the city, Toronto Community Housing and Context Development will also feature 16,000 square feet of retail/commercial space.
Developer RioCan is also being brought on board, and the proposed design will be presented at a community open house in mid-November.
The entire project will cost about $300 million, said Context president Howard Cohen. Business terms for the project were approved by city council in July, and the city will likely vote on the planning department approvals next summer. Occupancy is estimated for around the end of 2023.
Similar to larger ongoing revitalization projects in Regent Park and Lawrence Heights, this smaller-scale proposal is also aimed at creating a mixed-income community. Context has experience in the Lawrence Heights revitalization project.
Tory said the Queen and Coxwell project is “about more than bricks and mortar. It’s about creating a new community where renters, and TCHC tenants and condo owners live side by side. That is very much the kind of model of mixed income communities we are trying to create every opportunity we can get.”
The mayor said creating more affordable and market rental housing options for Torontonians is a priority for him and city council, and was made a clear priority by Toronto residents in last year’s municipal election.
He added that the project falls in line with the city’s Open Door Affordable Housing program. Created under the mayor’s leadership, city council approved the program in 2016 to fast-track the creation of affordable units.
In a written statement, TCH spokesperson Bruce Malloch said the 100 affordable rental units in the project are part of the Open Door Program and will be counted toward the city’s target of 40,000 units in 12 years.
Current tenants will be relocated to other TCH properties and eligible tenants will have the right to return to the community once the mixed-income community is complete.
Initially, the plan was for the site to only have the replaced 120 RGI units and 500 condo units, Cohen said, but the city wanted more.
Councillor Paula Fletcher, whose ward includes the development site, said the city and TCH worked with the developer over the past year to “change the conversation” which meant changing the mix of housing types and financing.
There were difficult negotiations, but eventually both sides came together. “I’m happy to be on Councillor Fletcher’s side now,” Cohen joked.
“It’s not easy to build affordable rental housing,” Fletcher said. “Most private companies are focused on building condos in the city or infill townhouses, but we see the need every day for affordable housing. Renovictions are forcing people out of their long-standing rental accommodations and their housing.”
She added that pressure on rental housing supplies is also being felt with services like Airbnb taking thousands of rental units out of the market. The revitalization project will provide stable rental housing for decades, Fletcher said.
Cohen said the city could have received cash in the transaction with the developer, but instead leveraged the land’s value to create more affordable and market rental units.
TCH chief executive Kevin Marshman said the project means there will be disruption for tenants who need to be relocated.
A community organization will assist with the relocation effort, and meetings are planned with residents to discuss both the project and the move.
Dionne Samuels, a tenant representative who has lived in one of the Queen and Coxwell buildings for eight years, said tenants are excited about the new affordable housing and the new community that will be built.
“As a community, we need a place to feel safe and sheltered. We’re getting a new community we can be proud of … and thrive in for the next 20 years,” Samuels said.