City Council moves to rapidly build new affordable and supportive homes for Toronto’s most vulnerable with $203 million federal investment

Following this week’s announcement from the Government of Canada that the City of Toronto will receive $203.3 million through the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI), today City Council approved Mayor John Tory’s motion directing staff to take the next steps to plan and implement the work needed to move forward.

The RHI is delivering $1 billion in grant funding nationally to rapidly create new affordable rental housing in response to the urgent housing needs of vulnerable and marginalized individuals. Specifically, the RHI aims to support: women and children fleeing domestic violence, seniors, young adults, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans, LGBTQ2+, racialized groups, Black Canadians, recent immigrants or refugees, and homeless people or those at risk of homelessness.

As part of the Major Cities Stream, the City has been allocated $203.3 million to create a minimum of 417 new permanent affordable homes. The minimum affordability period required under the RHI is 20 years. In addition to the funds provided through the RHI, Council today also approved the use of approximately $59 million in pre-approved City Open Door incentives to support the creation of up to 800 affordable rental units under the program. This will allow the City to fully maximize the RHI opportunity and exceed the minimum requirement.

This funding will be delivered through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The RHI can cover the cost of acquisition of land and construction of modular housing; acquisition of land and existing buildings for the purpose of conversion to affordable housing; and acquisition of land and rehabilitation of housing.

Prior to the funding being transferred to the City in full, by November 27 the City needs to provide the Government of Canada with an investment plan outlining the projects that will be created. Additionally, the RHI requires that the City ensure housing is available within 12 months of the completed agreement.

Staff will report back to Council in January 2021 with a progress update and to seek any additional authorities required to acquire or develop the new affordable rental units within the federal 12-month program timeframe.

In order to move forward at this rapid pace, the motion approved at City Council today will enable staff to develop the investment plan, enter into the required agreement as well as move forward with work including the potential purchase of properties and the funding of pre-development and pre-construction work.

In advance of the funding announcement, City staff proactively began preparation when the RHI program was first announced in September. Work undertaken to-date includes the development of an interdivisional City and CreateTO staff team which has been meeting on a regular basis to compile a list of properties and sites that could potentially be purchased or rapidly developed to quickly create new permanent housing options. Staff will also work with local councillors to further refine the list and to develop communications and community engagement plans prior to the purchase or development of properties.

To urgently address the issue of chronic homelessness and make the most of the funding provided by the Government of Canada, all governments need to work together to create new supportive housing. An essential part of our collective response is for the provincial government to provide operating investments along-side these new capital investments, and the City is reiterating our request for this funding.

More information on the implementation of the RHI can be found in the staff report: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.MM25.32

The creation of new, permanent affordable homes supports the goals outlined in the City’s 24-month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Plan which accelerates HousingTO 2020-2030, the City’s 10-year housing action plan. More information about HousingTO2020-2030 is available online: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/community-partners/affordable-housing-partners/housingto-2020-2030-action-plan/

Full details on the Government of Canada’s announcement: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/10/27/new-rapid-housing-initiative-create-3000-new-homes-canadians

Quotes:

“We thank the Government of Canada for their support to help address homelessness and get affordable housing built rapidly. Prime Minister Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Minister Ahmed Hussen have tangibly and meaningfully recognized the scale and scope of the homelessness challenge with this funding which will benefit Toronto and cities across Canada. Today, City Council gave clear direction to our staff to get affordable housing built as quickly as possible. This shows the importance of continued cooperation between all governments to address homelessness and I am determined to continuing that cooperation in order to tackle chronic homelessness.”

– Mayor John Tory

“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. This Rapid Housing Initiative will go a long way in supporting some of the most vulnerable individuals and families in the City of Toronto and ensuring they have housing that meets their needs and keeps them safe.”
– The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

“The City of Toronto knows how to build quality housing rapidly and this funding will allow us to continue to do that, but at a larger scale. The current pandemic highlights both the urgency and the opportunity for all governments to make investments that will quickly provide housing options to successfully support vulnerable and marginalized residents in our city.”

– Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, (Ward 9 Davenport), Planning and Housing Committee Chair