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NEWS: Affordable housing brought to Bathurst (Feb. 2020)

February 27th, 2020 · No Comments

Feds invest $200 million

Due for occupancy in 2022, the redevelopment at Bathurst and Bloor by Westbank Corp. dubbed Mirvish Village, will house an increased affordable housing component thanks to a $200 million financial contribution by the federal government. COURTESY WESTBANK CORP.

By Tanya Ielyseieva

Last month we included a snapshot of thirteen major developments underway or pending with the Gleaner’s distribution area. In this edition we focus on eleven of those that include a large residential component and ask the question: “Are they affordable?” 

Keenly aware of Toronto’s lack of affordable housing, the federal government came to Bathurst and Bloor in January to announce a major investment in the Mirvish Village development making many more units affordable.  

On January 16, Mayor John Tory joined Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ahmed Hussen, social development minister, to pledge $200 million to provide affordable rental units in the multi-tower Mirvish Village development. Hussen said the Mirvish project will ensure the location stays true to its roots as a new-immigrant and low-income hub.

“Today’s announcement reinforces our government’s commitment to creating homes that are affordable, energy-efficient, and accessible,” said Freedland. “By helping build communities such as Mirvish Village, where people can live close to jobs, schools, and public transit, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the project is a milestone in the battle for cheaper housing.

“Affordable housing has long been a challenge in our city, and it continues to be as big a challenge as ever today. Today shows how we can work together to actually start to make real progress in addressing that challenge.”

According to a study released by the group ACORN Canada, affordable housing in Toronto is defined as housing where the total monthly shelter cost (including heat and hydro) is at or below Toronto’s average market rent (AMR) by unit type. 

The province of Ontario defines affordable housing as the least expensive of two variables: the first option demands that rent not exceed 30 per cent of gross annual household income for low- and moderate-income households, meaning households with incomes in the lowest 60 per cent of the income distribution for renter households for the regional market area. The second option demands that rent be at or below the average market rent of a unit in the regional market area, meaning the area generally broader than a lower-tier municipality that has a high degree of social and economic interaction.

According to Statistics Canada, the Annex population increased by 4.6 per cent from 2011 to 2016, and renter and owner households changed as well. Sixty-two per cent of households are rented, thirty-eight per cent are owned. The population of the Annex area will spike as these buildings are made available for occupancy.

Notwithstanding the significant stock of affordable units to be made available in Mirvish Village, the vast majority of the new towers are being built for the well-to-do. Below is a summary of each development, number of units, and base prices:

Bianca Condo – 420 Dupont St. 

This new residential condominium is being erected at 420 Dupont Street. Bianca Condo will have 9 storeys and 216 units. This condo is self-described as a “perfect condo for university students”. However, the starting point for a condo is $1.3 million. No affordable units are included in this building.

Mirvish Village and Honest Ed’s – 581 Bloor St. W.

The Mirvish Village project is set to include 916 rental units, 225,000+ square feet of retail, offices, and community uses, along with public green spaces. 

Six buildings will include 916 rental units, 366 of which will be affordable, costing no more than one-third the median Toronto income. The unit mix will include 279 studio apartments, 230 one-bedroom units, 284 two-bedroom units, 87 three-bedroom units, and 36 live and work units.

Of those, 100 will be secured at 80 per cent of the average market rate in Toronto – far less than the going price in the downtown neighbourhood.

Officials say that a one-bedroom “deeply affordable” unit will cost about $1,000 a month while the affordable units will be a little more expensive but still below market rate.

“We want mixed housing whereby the affordable units, the deeply affordable units, the market units, all of them are mixed together and will have the same design and the same quality,” Hussen said. 

Hussen, who is also responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said the funding comes from a rental construction financing initiative.

Northwest corner Madison and Bloor – 316 Bloor St. W. 

The new condominium is set to rise at 316 Bloor St. and will have 29 storeys. The development proposes 341 residential units consisting of bachelor units, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. A minimum of 30 per cent of the building will be residential units varying between two and three bedrooms. The starting point for a condo is $1.5 million. No affordable units are included.

Northwest corner of Spadina and Bloor – 350 Bloor St. W

A new 36-storey development is a mixed-use building with spaces for retail, offices, condos, and rental units. The project is in the discussion process and hasn’t been approved yet.

666 Spadina Ave.

A new 11-storey mixed-use building with a total of 133 rental apartments and will have a new park at the north end of the site. It will be located south of the existing 25-storey building. A minimum of 30 per cent of the building’s units will be residential,  varying between two and three bedrooms. The existing 25-storey apartment building contains 334 rental units. Based on the city’s Official Plan housing definitions, one unit is considered affordable, 258 units have mid-range rents, and 73 units have high-end rates.

The Waverly – 484 Spadina Ave.

A new 15-storey rental building will bring 167 “Class A” apartments, meaning luxury apartments and high rents. This project is positioned as a premium rental building offering the same level of amenities and suite finishes as high-end condominiums. The development proposes residential units consisting of bachelor units, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.  No affordable units will be included.

Theory Condos — 203 College St.

This new 30-storey building is a mixed-use development, featuring residential and commercial retail units. The development will house 356 residential units in total, including 60 bachelor units, 34 one-bedroom units, 146 one-bedroom-plus den units, 87 two-bedroom units, and 29 three-bedroom units. The starting point for a condo is $400.000+.  Four units are going to be affordable rental homes. These units are 503, 601, 603 and 701 – all one-bedroom barrier-free units, measuring between 520 and 560 square feet. The units will be at or below 80 per cent of average market rents.

328 Dupont St.

This new 13-storey condo is a mixed-use condo which will have 104 modern units, between one and four bedrooms. ANX Condos will rise 13 storeys and will house just 105 private suites, which will include five one-bedroom units, 54 two-bedroom units, 36 three-bedroom or more units, and 10 four-bedroom units. The starting point for a condo is $600.000. No affordable units will be included.

300 Bloor St. W.

This new 28-storey condo development will have 259 units. The tower would include mostly residential use with a mix of 30 per cent one-bedroom units, 60 per cent two-bedroom and 10 per cent three-bedroom units. The starting point for a condo is $725.000. No affordable units will be made.

College Street at Huron – 231 College St. 

This new 17-storey residential condominium building will consist of 142 residential units along with 4 retail units and a two-level underground parking garage. The starting point for a condo is $250,000.  Two one-bedrooms will have no rent stipulation, at least two one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units will have affordable rents and the remainder will have no higher than mid-range rents.

Cost of housing is one of the main themes of any election campaign in recent years and in Toronto, where real estate prices and rents are extremely high, affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing voters in the city. Mayor John Tory made big promises for the city’s housing plan when he announced a new affordable housing plan in December 2019. 

The plan, which includes approving 40,000 new affordable rental homes, 18,000 new supportive housing units for vulnerable residents and, 10,000 new affordable rental and supportive homes for women and girls, is meant to help more than 340,000 households when it’s fully completed.

Despite the mayor’s aspirational goals, and the federal government’s meaningful investment in affordable housing at Bathurst and Bloor, there seems to be a landscape of housing being built in the Annex that most people could not afford to live in.

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