Backgrounder: Railway Lands West Development Blocks

Backgrounder: Railway Lands West Development Blocks

September 28, 2011

Toronto Community Housing is actively working on Block 32 and Block 36 South in the Railway Lands West area. These are two large blocks that front on Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard, at the northwest corner of Canoe-landing Park, east of Fort York and the future Garrison Creek city park.

We are already well into construction on close to one million square feet of affordable and market housing in the Railway Lands West area. This includes:
  • A 41-storey tower on Block 32 containing 427 affordable-rental units, funded in part by committed federal provincial housing grants, and by the City's land transfer to Toronto Community Housing to build out its affordable housing commitment in this extensive master-planned neighbourhood
  • A 29-storey market condominium in joint venture with Context Developments on Block 36 South, which will contain 364 units and is 76 per cent sold, the proceeds of which Toronto Community Housing will offset the remaining construction costs on Block 32, at no cost to the City's tax base or erosion of our scarce dollars for the capital repair backlog
  • A smaller, final phase on Block 36 North, which is expected to be brought forward early in 2012 for the Toronto Community Housing board's approval to proceed. This could become up to 100 affordable-homeownership condominiums if there were a federal-provincial affordable housing grant allocation in support.

In conjunction with these developments, Toronto Community Housing had Block 31 and Block 18AB under contract with the City as the third and final affordable-housing block in the new neighbourhood. Block 18AB was included to help offset the costs of constructing the affordable housing on Block 31.

As the City's agent on this complex project, Toronto Community Housing was well advanced in planning approvals, working collaboratively with the two school boards and with city staff to integrate a new City-owned community centre and daycare along the streets and park edges of the project. The City has collected development levies to build the schools and community facilities from every private development built in the new high-rise neighbourhood. It also received the land on which to build its affordable housing at nominal cost from the original railway landowner.

Earlier this year, however, City staff advised us that there was little likelihood of receiving affordable housing grants for these developments. It also became clear that we would not receive approval for a key aspect of our business plan, an increase in height and density on Block 31, which we required to deliver on the City's commitment to build affordable housing on this block. Together, these factors led to our decision to return Block 31 and Block 18AB to the City.

Toronto Community Housing completed project design development and a zoning application submission, including technical reports, and we worked diligently planning and co-ordinating with the schools and other public facilities. We have also handled the de-watering and security costs on the vacant property for a number of years. As a result we have asked the City to reimburse our costs for this work, about $1.5 million, without interest. Should the City agree to this request, we will apply the funds toward our $650 million capital repair backlog.

Over the near term, Toronto Community Housing will focus on projects where government funding is in place or is feasible. This includes capital repairs of our existing housing and Revitalization projects in other Toronto communities, including Regent Park, Alexandra Park, Lawrence Heights, Allenbury and Leslie-Nymark.

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For more information, contact Kyle Rooks at 416-981-4347 or kyle.rooks@torontohousing.ca