New Affordable Housing. Better Mayor.
Today Olivia released a plan for more and better affordable housing, including 15,000 new affordable rental units over four years. She also offered ideas on improving our existing stock of affordable homes, and a pilot project to decentralize how some TCHC buildings are run.
Rob Ford has failed to deliver new affordable homes, improve public housing or fix chronic governance issues. As housing costs soar in the city, he has offered nothing but platitudes—which do nothing to help lower-income families or young people find places to rent.
“Our city’s cultural and economic diversity is often found in our apartment buildings,” said Olivia. “With new targets for building affordable housing, and better zoning and governance of existing buildings, we can help more people find homes they can afford and build stronger communities.”
Olivia’s plan has three components:
• Expand mixed-income neighbourhoods, by introducing a target of 20% affordable units in new residential towers. Targets like this are in widespread use across North America, including Montreal, New York and San Francisco. Over four years, this would create 15,000 new, affordable rental units.
To help, Olivia would defer development charges for these units for ten years. This deferral would be renewed if the units remain affordable.
• Renew many of our 1,200 existing towers’ surroundings with new zoning with an eye to allowing lively street-level commerce and public spaces. Improvements include allowing infill housing, farmers’ markets, community gardening, child care, energy efficiency and more welcoming public spaces.
This is where the most impact could happen in the next four years. As a first step, Olivia would fast-track changes to residential apartment zoning to remove restrictive rules that prohibit businesses and community spaces operating around towers. She would also review zoning rules to allow better-built, better-looking density in these neighbourhoods. Allowing more intensification of existing rental apartment sites, where appropriate, is key to helping landlords improve them without large rent increases.
• Improve governance in public housing by establishing a pilot project to allow a more decentralized, tenant- and community-driven approach. The pilot project would focus on specialized seniors’ housing, which she proposes be managed by a stakeholder-governed Seniors’ Community Public Housing Corporation.
If the pilot proves successful, she would look at empowering residents and communities elsewhere in the public housing system. This would reduce TCHC management costs, freeing up funds for maintenance and repairs.
“I grew up in low-income housing and know how important it is that these communities thrive,” said Olivia. “About half the people in our city rent, and we need to be innovative in making these neighbourhoods more vibrant, and safer. We’ve also seen a building boom lately. I want to keep this energy going, and work with the industry to use it to build new affordable units to address our affordability crisis.
“We know Mr. Ford’s approach to public housing has failed, and that we need to do better. I’ve said the province needs to return to funding public housing as it did before 1998,” she said. “We can also do a better job of managing it, by moving away from top-down, massive bureaucracies and trying a model that respects and empowers tenants. Because when communities have a stake in their own future, I’ve learned they get stronger.”