“Council has dragged their feet on rental housing. It’s time for a new approach to building more affordable, livable rental homes faster.” – Mark Saunders
Toronto - Today, Mark Saunders put forward additional solutions to help build homes faster: removing barriers to building more purpose-built rentals, unlocking federal and provincial infrastructure dollars, and making it easier to secure loans for affordable housing projects.
At the current rate of construction, it will take 45 years to reach Council’s 10-year goal to build 40,000 affordable housing units. As of March, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,500, while two-bedrooms are $3,300 and three-bedrooms are $3,800.
“We don’t need new programs for the sake of generating headlines in an election,” said Saunders. “Let’s try something different. Let’s start by delivering on what’s on the books already. If we can do that, we will be miles ahead of where we are today.”
To build livable homes Torontonians can afford, Saunders will:
- Permit 1-2 more floors per rental or condo building - or up to 20 additional units - where appropriate.
- Change the current requirements for the Housing Now program, which make it very difficult for builders to get financing to build affordable housing.
- Take the property tax off affordable housing units in future developments to help spur the rapid development of more homes. This will have no impact on city finances.
- Press the federal government to waive the HST on all new large-scale purpose-built rental housing projects.
- Explore the possibility of tax and other incentives for purpose-built affordable rentals.
- Review Toronto’s development charge framework to ensure that monies collected are being directed toward their intended purpose. If they are not, look at reallocating some funds to community improvements in underserved areas.
To unlock billions of federal and provincial dollars already set aside for housing and infrastructure, Saunders would work with the provincial and federal governments to:
- Explore a federal ‘last-mile’ grant program that would top up funding for projects in need of loans. As rents from affordable or supportive units may not cover the full cost of the project, these grants would cover the outstanding amount. For example, if a large purpose-built rental project needs a $300 million loan, but the banks will only lend $275 million based on projected rental income, the program would provide a grant of $25 million so the project can move ahead.
- Change the definition of ‘infrastructure’ used by the Canada Infrastructure Bank to include housing.
- Work with the provincial government to make it easier for non-profits to secure loans from Infrastructure Ontario for new rental housing projects without the need for municipal guarantees.
To encourage builders to include affordable and supportive housing in their projects, Saunders will:
- Pursue the Toronto Community Housing model where City land is provided to builders in return for including affordable and supportive housing when they build market rate units, and where the City gets a share of the profits from market unit sales.
- Incentivize opportunities to purchase underused commercial buildings, which could be converted into shelters or supportive housing.
In the coming days and weeks, Saunders will announce more details of his overall plan to protect Toronto’s future.
See also: Mark Saunders Will Cut Housing Approval Times Down to One Year