Mayor John Tory is looking to address the city's affordable housing problem by cutting red tape for developers.
Mr. Tory met with developers in February, challenging them to help solve the affordable housing shortage and asking for ways the city can encourage more developments. On Monday, the mayor announced a series of proposed incentives – including fast-tracking approvals and reducing construction costs.
"We asked them what needed to be done, and this is meant to respond to what they said," Mayor Tory said at a press conference Monday. "It's meant to tell them, if they show up to work with us to build affordable housing, we in turn will do our very best to roll out the red carpet for them."
In 2009, the city set a target to build at least 1,000 new affordable rental units each year. Since that target was passed by council in 2010, Mr. Tory said, fewer than 2,800 units have actually been built. Meanwhile, about 90,000 Toronto residents are currently on a waitlist for affordable housing.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the city's social housing provider, Toronto Community Housing Corporation, faces a $914-million repairs backlog. Last week's federal and provincial budgets revealed no new spending to address those repairs.
"We can't afford to just keep waiting and waiting and waiting and missing our own modest goals we've set," Mr. Tory told reporters Monday.
Included in the measures is the creation of a "gold star" fast-track process for developers applying to build affordable housing. The plan also recommends spending $20-million from the city's development charges reserve fund to "quick-start housing developments," and encouraging councillors to prioritize the use of development charges on affordable housing.
The measures, dubbed "The Open Door initiative," were adopted by the city's affordable housing committee Monday, but still need city council's approval.
The mayor's announcement Monday was made from a vacant city-owned lot near Spadina and Dupont. Though the property was designated for the development of affordable housing over a decade ago, Mr. Tory said the site has since been in "development limbo."
"We need to do all we can to make the city a super-highway and not a dead-end when it comes to approving affordable housing development," said Ana Bailao, the city's affordable housing advocate, on Monday.
"We want sites like this … to move quickly from neglected to developed with much-needed affordable housing."