Mike Harris downloaded the cost of building and operating public
housing onto the municipalities. However city councils do not want to
raise taxes to pay for maintaining the existing buildings and building
new affordable and public housing.
As waiting lists for affordable and public housing grew, the
municipalities were looking for a way out. Some city councillors and
the social housing agencies think they found a solution. Since Harris
balanced the provincial budget by downloaded the cost of affordable
housing onto the municipalities, the city can help balance their budget
by downloading the cost of affordable housing onto new condominium
There are political pressures being put upon city councillors and
incentives given to developers to add a few units specifically for
low-income owners in new condo developments.
The city proposes to add "affordable ownership housing" to Section 37i
so it will read:
purpose built rental housing with
mid-range or affordable rents, land for affordable housing, affordable ownership housing, or, at the
discretion of the owner, cash-in-lieu of affordable rental or ownership
units or land;
Habitat for Humanity has written a report,
proposing that developers of new condo projects be granted extra
density rights—the ability to add lucrative floors and units—in
exchange for allowing Habitat access to new condos for under $130,000
Wellesley Street East
This new development by Diamond Corporation (later sold to Aterra) is the first Habitat for
Humanity participation in a new condo tower development using the
Planning Act although they have worked with the Daniels Corp. and the
Diamond Corp. has previously provided affordable housing units at 210
Simcoe Street with OCADU and Artspace.
159 Wellesley East
Habitat will get eight 900 square foot, three-bedroom
units in a
35-story highrise. This is a part of the developer's Section 37
compensation to Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam's Ward 27 for being allowed
to build such a high density tower on such a very small lot.
The projected occupancy date is October 2019. The market prices start
at $302,000 for a unit, $50,000 for a parking spot and $5,000 for a
Habitat looked at what the expected condo fees and taxes would be and
that with the mortgage payments, homeowner costs will fall within the
30 per cent of income criteria.
Habitat for Humanity Toronto offers low-income families
no-interest, no-profit mortgages with payments set at less than 30 per
cent of gross income. A family of three requires an income would be
$29,400 to $38,153, while a family four needs an income of $32,600 to
$45,322 to be eligible for a home.
The Habitat owners will have full access to the amenities and will pay
full common element costs. To make this possible, the condo will have
no expensive amenities such as a swimming pool.
The Habitat model also requires homeowners to put in 500 hours of
“sweat equity” and, along with other volunteers, help build their homes.
That is harder to do on a highrise construction site. The general
contractor will build the units but leave an empty shell. A lot of the
inside finishing, such as drywalling, plastering, painting, flooring
and installing kitchen cabinets will be done by the Habitat volunteers
and the home owners.
Since they are getting their units at far below market rates, the
owners cannot flip their units or make a large profit when they sell a
few years later.
Habitat's model is to hold a deed restriction on the units to ensure
they remain affordable. If the home buyer of a Habitat unit sells for
more than the purchasing price, the profit is shared with Habitat
and/or the property is sold to another family earning less than the
artist's rendering of 159 Wellesley
Is this a win-win situation?
This looks like a great idea. Low-income families get
to own their own homes in the downtown core. This program also
puts a few low-income homes in among higher income units so the city is
spared another large public-housing ghetto. Finally, the city and the
province doesn't have to spend money that they don't have.
However, critics claim that the Section 37 money that the developers
give to these non-profit agencies would be better spent if it was all
pooled together and used to build more public housing or used to repair
the city's existing crumbling public housing stock.
These programs can only assist a very limited number of low-income
families and they completely ignore the needs of the very poor and the
homeless. They will remain in the rundown and dangerous public housing
The city also loses out on land for parks, public playgrounds and civic
improvements as the Section 37 money that is used to subsidize these
low-cost units can't be used to pay for other public amenities that the
downtown wards require.
I also wonder if putting a low-income family into a large condominium
tower is such a great idea. A few years down the road expensive repairs
may create the need for huge special assessments or if the condo
corporation assumes multi-million dollar loans, it will be impossible
for the low income families to pay their share of the costs.
Any candidate for the board promising no fee increases should be able
to count on those eight proxies.
In the spring of 2014, the Daniels Corporation partnered with Habitat
for Humanity to provide two families a new condominium unit in the
Cinema Tower Condominium at 21 Widmer Street Toronto.
This 43-storey residence that is fully equipped with spectacular
building features and amenities, and is conveniently located near
shopping centres, with access to streetcars and subways.
The key exchange and dedication ceremony that marked a new beginning
for the first partner family was held on Sunday, March 23, 2014.