230 sherbourne toronto

Push to stop Toronto heritage building from becoming condos fails miserably

A bid to expropriate a majestic late Georgian-style home that has sat vacant for years fell flat during a council meeting on Wednesday, the hopes of unlocking the site for new affordable housing dashed in the dramatic session at City Hall.

Under threat of becoming yet another high-rise condo development, the site near the future Moss Park Station includes the heritage-listed home at 230 Sherbourne Street, known as William Dineen House, and a vacant lot next door at 214 Sherbourne.

Community organizations have been fighting to have this site purchased by the city and earmarked for desperately needed affordable housing for years, citing the ongoing shelter and housing crisis.

And that fight boiled over today in dramatic fashion, a scene commentator Matt Elliott described in a live-tweeting of the council session as "a full-court press by Tory and his team to try to shut down an attempt by council's left" to expropriate.

The city penned a report on the feasibility of the city buying the property for affordable housing, but it was confirmed in Wednesday's council session by CreateTO CEO Vic Gupta that the city was outbid by a private developer.

Things started to spiral when Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam tabled a motion to expropriate the land, stating that "this is about uplifting an entire neighbourhood that has been left behind."

When Councillor Ana Bailao spoke out against expropriation, spectators from the gallery started getting involved in a good old-fashioned reminder of the in-person circus that was municipal politics during the before times.

Wong-Tam's motion to expropriate the properties failed, and not just by a little bit, council voting five in favour and 20 against expropriation.

As a fallback, Wong-Tam tabled a motion directing staff to negotiate with the owners of the retail plaza to the immediate north to build affordable housing on that site, but this motion also failed 10-15.

In the end, Wong-Tam was able to walk away with a minor win for the community, her motion to set up a community working group for the planned condo development carrying unanimously with 26 votes.

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