Mayor John Tory pushes province for land to build affordable housing

Mayor John Tory pushes province for land to build affordable housing

Toronto Mayor John Tory wants the province to pony up what he calls surplus land for affordable housing.

Tory made the request in a meeting with Finance Minister Charles Sousa Monday.

"One thing I have said we can do, and this is a point I made with the minister, is we can work harder at increasing housing supply, especially affordable rental and ownership housing options," Tory said.

"With the stroke of a pen, Minister Sousa and his colleagues could give thousands of families a chance to live a more affordable life here in Toronto if we could get on with some of those projects on current provincial — I'll call it surplus — land," he said.

Speaking with reporters Monday, the mayor said he wants to see some of the land the province owns transformed into new, vibrant neighbourhoods.

"The province owns surplus land — for example in the West Don Lands — and it could be used right now to help us create new neighbourhoods in this city consisting largely of affordable housing and adding to our affordable housing supply."

Tory says he is looking at two specific sources of information to help address the housing issue. 

Mayor plans to meet with experts to tackle skyrocketing housing prices

"The first is to ask our city manager Peter Wallace to report to me by the end of the month on the latest thinking of the federal-provincial-city working group looking at housing prices in Toronto over these last few months," he said.

"Secondly I will convene immediately upon my return from India a meeting involving some of the best available housing and planning experts and financial experts to seek their advice on the cause of skyrocketing prices and what they think we should do about it."

Tory will be in India on a city business mission for the next 10 days. Meantime, the finance minister says he is working on stabilizing the price of housing. 

"I just recently signed and agreed to a health accord with the federal government, which included to some extent, adding a little bit more for social housing and affordable housing so that we can meet those growing demands," Sousa said.

City, province need to 'put some money behind' their housing pledges: Tenants Ontario

Kenn Hale, director of Legal Services with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, says until the city or province actually act, it's all talk.

"The only real way to find a solution is to put some money behind it. And neither government has shown an inclination to do that," he said. 

The Ministry of Housing says it has invested in affordable housing, with plans to do more.

Spokesperson Laura Gallant points to a series of financial commitments worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including $42.9 million for the Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program and $205 million in contributions to the Investments in the  Affordable Housing Program.

She says once the province declares land surplus, the government initiates a "standard disposition process and should the City of Toronto express interest in a specific property we're always happy to discuss options with them."

Sousa says he's looking at a number of options to help lower the price of housing, including a potential foreign buyers tax.

When asked if he was satisfied by what he heard Monday, Tory quipped that Sousa's "budget's coming soon enough."