Five years after plan approved, construction begins on Toronto’s first ‘Housing Now’ site in Etobicoke

Ground has broken on Toronto’s first Housing Now project, five years after City Council approved a plan to use surplus City of Toronto-owned lands to build affordable housing and mixed-income communities near transit.

On Wednesday, politicians and stakeholders gathered to symbolically put shovels in the ground at a new 725-unit rental housing development at 5207 Dundas St. W. in Etobicoke.

The city, in partnership with CreateTO (Toronto’s real estate agency), is working with Kilmer Group and Tricon Residential to construct the new building, which will have 218 affordable units, some of which will be deeply affordable, and 507 market-rate rental suites ranging in size from one to four bedrooms.

The building will also have amenities and services as well as retail and public spaces. Occupancy is expected in about four and a half years.

This new development is located on one of seven parcels of an 18-acre site in the former Six Points area, which is also known as “Spaghetti Junction.” The city invested $77 million to decommission the complex interchange and transform it into a new network of streets.

Eventually, five of those properties will be redeveloped into rental housing with upwards of 2,800 rental units, 904 of which will be affordable, while the two other parcels could become the future home of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, a new Toronto Public Library branch, and new city parks.

Vic Gupta, CreateTO’s CEO, said the project is now finally moving forward after “challenges” caused by “current economic conditions.”

“With its decision earlier this spring, Toronto City Council created a path forward for this site and I’m incredibly proud of the team at CreateTO as well as our colleagues at the Housing Secretariat and city planning for their efforts in getting us to where we are today,” he said during a news conference.

“We finished negotiating a deal with our development partners in December, and in April, we were at the Planning and Housing Committee obtaining approval on a rezoning that city planning secured in just three months time, which is really just really remarkable.”

Coun. Brad Bradford, who chairs the Planning and Housing Committee and serves as a CreateTO board director, said today’s ground-breaking represents a “very significant achievement,” as it shows that the city is “taking action to create a range of new housing opportunities for Torontonians.”

“This development, the first of its kind in our Housing Now pipeline, is a tangible representation of the progress to creating more diverse, inclusive, affordable, and mixed-use communities near transit. That’s what it’s all about,” he said, pointing to many other provincial and federal lands that could also be unlocked to create new housing options in Toronto.

“As the city, we’re not only planning for tomorrow, next week next year, we’re investing in a diversity of housing options that will meet the needs and the aspirations of seniors, new Canadians, young folks, working families, and everybody who wants to call Toronto home. And the city, in collaboration with partners in the private sector, (is) getting it done.”

Bradford went on to say that he looks forward to “watching the progress on this development,” which he called the “first of many” in the city’s Housing Now initiative that would make Toronto a “more affordable, accessible, inclusive, and livable for everyone who wants to call (it) home.”

Coun. Paula Fletcher, also a board director with CreateTO, reiterated that this project is the first of many to build “much-needed affordable housing” in Toronto, to transform “precious city lands for a higher purpose.”

The Toronto-Danforth representative went on to say she hopes that the other developers of rental housing will take note of and model the 30 per cent of affordable rental housing that will be offered at this development.

“I wish, I wish, I wish that the transit-oriented communities that are being proposed across the city for transit nodes would include 30 per cent affordable housing. At the moment, they don’t,” she said, crediting everyone for all of the hard work that went into making this project a reality.

“That’s where we’ll put some pressure on to say follow our great example here in Etobicoke. It’s going to be fantastic.”

In her remarks, Mayor Olivia Chow said the City of Toronto has taken a “leadership role” in building affordable rental housing and called on the provincial and federal governments to “step up” and join the city in this effort.

“Let’s just build, and build, and build and we hoped they would step up and join his excitement,” said Chow, who following the ground-breaking ceremony said that she would be announcing some of her own affordable housing projects this fall.

She had campaigned at length on delivering more affordable housing.

first Housing Now site

So far, the City of Toronto has allocated 21 prime transit-oriented sites to the Housing Now program, which City Council first approved in January 2019. Ten of those sites have already been re-zoned with market offerings completed for six of them. Construction at two other Housing Now sites at 50 Wilson Heights Blvd. and 140 Merton St. is set to get underway by the end of 2023.

The Housing Now program was established under Toronto’s former mayor John Tory to support the city’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, which aims to build 40,000 new affordable rental homes, and its Housing Action Plan 2022-2026, which has a target of 285,000 homes by 2031.

The city has committed more than $1.3 billion in land value, capital funding, and other financial incentives to Housing Now, which has the goal of delivering 10,000 affordable rental homes in mixed-use communities by 2030.

Back in early May, City Council adopted the program’s 2023 Progress Update report, which recommended urgent actions for all levels of government to “unlock purpose-built affordable and market rental housing supply in all neighbourhoods across Toronto.”

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