toronto modular housing

Plan to turn Toronto parking lot into modular housing receives pushback from neighbourhood

Toronto residents are pushing back against plans to build a modular housing development on the lot at the corner of Trenton and Cedarvale Ave. in East York's Stan Wadlow neighbourhood.

The city announced plans for two new modular housing developments last week as part of Toronto's initiative to provide supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness, but the plans have already received significant pushback from residents who say they have safety concerns and refuse to "allow politicians to bypass community consultation under the guise of social justice."

The three-storey, 64-unit building slated for the parking lot in East York and the 60-unit development set for the city-owned land at 175 Cummer Ave. are both located in what's called "Yellow Belt" neighbourhood-zoned areas of the city, and therefore will require a Minister's zoning order (MZO) to make their fall 2021 delivery deadline. 

An MZO controls the use of land and sets specific requirements for new develoments, according to the Ministy of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and it can potentially be used to control land use in any area of the province.

But residents say the MZO will give the city the authority to build bigger developments than these areas are currently zoned for, and that it will allow them to do so without sufficient community consultation.

"Say no to MZO! City Council is looking to bypass all community consultation in going to directly to the province to fast track new developments in the East York & Willowdale regions," reads a petition that has garnered more than 1,400 signatures to date. "This is an abuse of power!"

Residents also cite nearby elementary schools, childcare centres and homes for the elderly as reasons why the development shouldn't be built in this location. 

The city says it does want to hear and collect community feedback, however, and the first virtual community engagement session with city councillor Brad Bradford and city staff is scheduled for March 17 at 7 p.m. to provide additional information about the proposed project and answer residents' questions.

Residents are also concerned about the loss of free parking currently provided by the lot at Trenton and Cedarvale, and the city says its community liaison team has reached out to many local stakeholders including local schools and groups that use Stan Wadlow park and East York Memorial Arena to have follow-up meetings specifically on this issue.

"The City is committed to engaging with local communities to hear and address their concerns about this project including the loss of parking," says the city

"The City recognizes the use of the parking lot and is working to outline alternate parking options which will be discussed and shared with the community at the upcoming community meetings and the second staff report in April."

Mark Richardson, the technical lead for HousingNowTO, meanwhile told blogTO that in order for the city to reach its goal of of creating 18,000 new supportive housing units by 2030, 2,000 new units like these modular housing sites need to be created every year for the next decade — making it impossible to avoid upsetting some neighbourhood residents in every case. 

"Our volunteers support the use of Minister's zoning orders (MZO) on all of the city's modular-housing and Housing Now sites, as they are the only way to avoid every residents' association in the city dragging out the approval of new affordable housing for an additional two-three years on every single proposed site by filing a TLAB appeal," he said.

"It's time for the neighbours around the Trenton site to do a little soul-searching as we approach the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Toronto. We all know there are already homeless encampments in East York, including ones in the parks and ravines near the proposed site on Trenton," he continued. 

"The choice for that Stan Wadlow neighbourhood isn't do we want people who need supportive housing in our neighbourhood — the choice is would you rather those people be out-of-sight in a tent in your local ravine, or in safe and supportive permanent housing on this parking lot?"

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