Mayoral Candidate Jennifer Keesmaat Vows To Create 100,000 Affordable Rental Units

Mayoral Candidate Jennifer Keesmaat Vows To Create 100,000 Affordable Rental Units

Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is trumping John Tory’s housing plan by promising to build 100,000 new “truly affordable” units in 10 years. Th

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Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is trumping John Tory’s housing plan by promising to build 100,000 new “truly affordable” units in 10 years.

The plan, announced Tuesday morning, more than doubles Mayor Tory’s promise to create 40,000 units in 12 years.

“By taking these steps, we will provide safe, stable, high-quality homes to over 200,000 Torontonians,” she said. “This election is about the kind of city we want … for ourselves, but also for future generations.”

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The “core” of the ambitious plan will be unlocking more city land to give private developers incentive to build, Keesmaat said. She didn’t say how the plan would be financed, but she promised those details were forthcoming.

This was the first policy announcement the city’s former chief planner has made since signing up to challenge Tory at the last minute on July 27.

Tory’s signature housing program created this term, called Open Door, set out to accomplish, for the first time, a decade-long, council-backed goal of creating 1,000 new affordable rental units each year. Despite Tory claiming that it has, that goal has not been met. According to city data, just over 1,200 affordable rental units will have been completed from the beginning of 2015 to the end of this year. Another 2,600 have been approved but not built. Few of the completed units are a result of the Open Door program.

In June, Tory vowed to increase the target to 40,000 units over 12 years, which would be about 3,300 per year on average. He has also not outlined how that could be accomplished given Open Door’s current output.

On Tuesday, Keesmaat noted Toronto has surpassed Vancouver as the most expensive rental city in Canada and criticized Tory for not using all the tools available to him to build new affordable rental units, including sitting on, she said, one of North America’s largest real estate portfolios.

On Tuesday, Keesmaat noted Toronto has surpassed Vancouver as the most expensive rental city in Canada and criticized Tory for not using all the tools available to him to build new affordable rental units, including sitting on, she said, one of North America’s largest real estate portfolios.

Her plan includes “making affordable housing the core of the mandate of CreateTO,” the newly-created agency to manage the city’s land holdings and transactions.

A campaign spokesperson, providing additional details about the plan, said there is a “significant” amount of land that could be developed if an “appropriately broad view” is taken; for example, using the space over one-storey subway stations or converting active city-owned parking lots.

“The city is currently examining the redevelopment of some of the sites it owns without pursuing affordable housing, which should not be the case,” said spokesperson Chris Ball in an email. “There are sites like this across the city that we could leverage for affordable housing while creating stronger communities rather than simply using land to generate dividends.”

The land would be transferred to developers at no cost or low cost, Ball said, or using 99-year leases to secure affordable housing.

Keesmaat also proposes the funds from the Liberal government’s $40-billion, 10-year national housing strategy should be used to build new, purpose-built rental units and ensure rents stay affordable for longer than 25 to 30 years, which is a typical affordability period under the Open Door program.

“I’m determined to do everything we can to build more affordable housing in Toronto and we need to do it much faster,” Tory said in a news release responding to Keesmaat’s announcement. “I’m proud of the progress we have made this term approving and building affordable housing, and we’re just getting started.”

He also jabbed Keesmaat, who was often said by Tory and his allies to be too outspoken as a bureaucrat, for not bringing the plan forward when she was in that role.

The city currently defines affordable housing as anything at or below average market rent. Those figures come from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which surveys all currently occupied rental units. In 2018, the average market rent for a one-bedroom was $1,202 a month and $1,426 for a two-bedroom unit.

Keesmaat said her plan defines affordable housing as 80 per cent of average market rent, which in 2018 would be $962 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,141 for a two-bedroom unit.

Source: thestar.com

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