affordable housing toronto

One of Toronto's hippest intersections is getting a huge affordable housing complex

An awkward and underutilized parking lot in one of Toronto's trendiest neighbourhoods has been selected as the future home of what city officials describe as an "affordable rental housing" pilot program.

And not just any affordable rental housing complex, but a first-of-its-kind, climate-friendly project made from mass timber and other low-carbon building materials.

That's right, Toronto is getting another high-profile wood building — this one in a location befitting of its hip and forward-thinking construction style.

Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão and City Councillor Joe Cressy announced the news earlier this week, revealing that some 100 new affordable rental housing units had been approved near the corner of Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue.

Located just behind the CIBC bank on the southeast corner of the intersection, the site (1113-1117 Dundas St. W.) currently operates as a city-run parking lot.

Just steps from Trinity Bellwoods Park, the Ossington strip and a plethora of hot Dundas West indie businesses, developers have no doubt eyed the site at one point for a new condo build. Fortunately for the people who will eventually live at the new complex, developers can't do anything. The City of Toronto owns the site, and has chosen to redevelop as part of its HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan.

If things go well with this first mass timber affordable housing complex, the city hopes to replicate it at various other city-owned sites across Toronto.

"Through this pilot program, it is anticipated that a new, scalable affordable and market housing solution (a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program) will be developed," reads a release from the city issued Monday.

"The anticipated benefits of this approach to residential/mixed-use development include: faster construction timelines; reduced cost due to efficiencies; reduced greenhouse gas and material (embodied carbon) emissions from the housing, transportation, and construction sectors; and improved quality of life for future residents, all while optimizing the density of affordable housing on targeted city-owned real estate assets."

This won't be the first mass timber building to be approved for Toronto — we've seen several wooden office and academic spaces begin to rise in recent years — but it will be the first residential project of its kind in Canada's largest city.

The nature of this pilot makes it uniquely poised to advance both Toronto's affordable housing action plan and its TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.

If all goes well, it could have big implications for both the environment and affordability in Toronto.

"Pending the outcomes of the pilot program, Toronto could have a new cost-effective building option to increase the supply of affordable housing, while also achieving a lower carbon footprint than traditional steel and concrete construction," said Bailão on Monday.

"Making the model replicable will also help speed up the design, development, and construction processes, and ultimately expedite the delivery of much-needed housing across the city."

No word yet on when shovels will hit the ground, but the city has reveealed that this development "is being designed to the highest tier of Toronto Green Standard Version 4."

That means no on-site fossil fuel use, the maximization of on-site renewable electricity, and the use of mass timber and other low-carbon materials as much as possible.

"As a result, this building will be near net-zero greenhouse gas emissions," says the city.

Lead photo by

John Tory

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