City of Toronto marks milestone in delivery of first modular, supportive housing

Mayor John Tory was joined today by the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development; Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Ward 9 Davenport) and Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest) to mark a key milestone in the delivery of the City’s first modular housing building. At the 11 Macey Ave. site, the modular homes are being installed this week by crane, bringing the project a significant step closer to occupancy, which is anticipated to take place next month.

The City’s Modular Housing Initiative is building affordable rental homes that also offer support services, designed for people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

The City’s implementation plan for up to 250 modular supportive homes was approved by Council at the end of April. The first 100 homes are being delivered this year as part of Phase 1 of the plan at two sites: the building at 11 Macey Ave. will provide 56 studio homes and the 150 Harrison St. building will provide 44 homes. Each building will be three-storeys high and will include common rooms, a dining room, program space and administrative offices. The remaining 150 homes will be delivered as part of Phase II in 2021.

The Neighbourhood Group and COTA Health were selected to operate and provide support services at both locations for a 35-year term starting this fall.

The full capital cost for Phase 1 of the plan is estimated to be $20.9 million. Funding is coming from the City’s Development Charges Reserve Fund for Subsidized Housing, and from the Government of Canada through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, which has committed $8.25 million in grants and recoverable loans.

The Affordable Housing Innovation Fund is a $200 million initiative through the National Housing Strategy that has been instrumental in creating the next generation of housing in Canada. The goal of the Innovation Fund is to encourage new funding models and innovative building techniques in the affordable housing sector.

The City has requested operating funding for health-related support services and housing subsidies from the Province.

Modular housing is high-quality housing built in a factory-controlled setting and transported to the site for assembly. Each home is approximately 300 square feet and comes with a built-in kitchen (including a stove top), microwave and fridge. The homes also come furnished with a twin bedframe and mattress, a lounge chair, dining table and chairs and a dresser. All the items were installed or placed in the homes at the factory and are furnished upon delivery. The process to complete the construction and installation of the 100 modular homes will be approximately six to eight months, as opposed to three to five years for traditional construction. Modular housing has been successfully used in many jurisdictions in North America including Edmonton and Vancouver in Canada, and Boston and Los Angeles in the United States.

The Modular Housing Initiative is one component of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, which calls for the City to approve 40,000 new affordable rental homes including 18,000 supportive homes, 1,000 of which are to be modular supportive homes. Building modular supportive housing is a quick and effective way to provide permanent affordable homes with supports, on a neighbourhood scale, for those experiencing homelessness.

The use of supportive housing to respond to the challenge of homelessness is very important from both an economic and public health standpoint. Accommodating one person in a shelter cost more than $3,000 per month before COVID-19 and costs have since more than doubled due to the extra space and other protective resources needed during the pandemic. Accommodating one person in a permanent, affordable rental home with supports is around $2,000 per month.

Quotes

“Today we are marking a significant milestone in the development of 11 Macey Avenue – the City of Toronto’s first modular supportive housing project. The City’s Modular Housing Initiative is an innovative and cost-effective way in which we are building small-scale, affordable, infill housing while providing a rapid, dignified response to connect people experiencing homelessness with homes and appropriate supports to help them achieve housing stability. This is moving fast because we need to build housing fast. The whole point of modular housing is that we can build it in months not years. That is why it is part of what the federal government and the City, together, call rapid housing. This is part of our plan to move forward with creating new affordable and supportive housing options for residents across this city with unprecedented speed.”

– Mayor John Tory

“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. The Government of Canada is a proud partner in this initiative because we know the importance of ensuring everybody has a home that meets their needs. Rapid housing is a solution to address the urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians by building more affordable housing quickly. Across Canada, more rapid housing is needed, and we will deliver.”

–  The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this life-saving modular housing initiative will provide individuals with safe spaces to exercise physical distancing and self-isolation. In the longer term, this approach will result in substantial cost savings to the public sector, while improving the health and housing outcomes of individuals who are currently within the shelter system.”

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

“This community’s engagement has been a key part of this project moving forward and I am confident with continued, active participation, combined with both housing partners and the City, 11 Macey Avenue will be a true success for both our new neighbours and for the community as a whole. The modular housing initiative is an excellent example of how we are activating resources efficiently and investing in key supports that will bring comprehensive solutions to reduce homelessness close to home and across the city.”

– Councillor Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest), Budget Committee Chair