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A condominium development under construction is Toronto is seen in this file photo.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor John Tory met privately with developers this week, challenging them to help solve the city's affordable housing problem.

Throughout the year-long leadup to the mayoral election, Mr. Tory and his rivals spoke about ways in which the city could encourage developers to build more affordable rental housing – including deferring development charges or speeding up the approvals process. On Monday, meeting with a group of the city's most prominent developers, he presented a list of such incentives and ask them to do more.

"I simply put the question to them: What is it going to take to get you into the business?" Mr. Tory said in an interview. "I said to them, 'I need you to step up. It started with me challenging them quite specifically. Challenging them in a positive way – I wasn't criticizing them. I was just saying, 'I need your help.'"

He said the list of possible incentives included ideas that came from rival Olivia Chow, including deferring development charges. He also suggested the possibility of making public land available, and speeding up approvals for builders.

"The challenge was, 'I need your help. I need you to step up.' But I realize that we have to find ways to make it attractive for you do to do that," he said. "Business is business. They will do what is attractive for them."

The mayor said he plans to meet next with members of the non-profit housing industry. After that, he said, he will go back to both groups within the next few months with a finalized proposal.

Mr. Tory said his goal is for the city to meet its own target set out in 2009 to build at least 1,000 new affordable rental units each year. Since that pledge was passed by city council in 2010, he said, fewer than 2,800 units have actually been built.

"I think it'd be fantastic if the city met its own target.… we're clearly not achieving it now, and there's a lot of people suffering as a result," he said. "It backs itself up all the way through the system, right down to the shelters, where there are people who, if there was an affordable rental housing option for them, they might not be in the shelters."

The city's newly appointed housing advocate Ana Bailão, who was in the meeting, said the builders appeared to be responsive to the ideas presented. She said solving the housing shortage depends on a variety of approaches, and that affordable rentals play an important role.

"The way that you're going to start putting a dent into the housing issue is by investing in different kinds of housing," she said. "You need to invest in shelters, like we are in the budget. You need to tackle TCHC [Toronto Community Housing Corporation], like we're doing. And you need to build affordable rental housing. Different people have different needs."