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New project would give millions to charities trying to save Parkdale's rooming houses

Last Updated May 17, 2018 at 8:07 pm EDT

There are about 200 rooming houses in Parkdale — but they are quickly disappearing because the owners are being enticed to cash in on Toronto’s hot housing market.

This means that many of Toronto’s most vulnerable could be out on the streets.

But one city councillor is trying to prevent this from happening.

“Right now, most of the time when we spend Sec. 37 money on affordable housing…it takes over six months to do that,” said Gord Perks, councillor for Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park.  “If you’re trying to buy something to save the tenants, there is no way the guy selling is going to wait that amount of time.  So we’re setting aside a fund so that social agencies and non-profits can move quickly to save the housing units and tenants form being de-housed.”

Perks said we are losing affordable housing at a faster rate than it is being built which means that thousands of people are at risk for homelessness.

That is why he has put forward a plan for a pilot project that would give quicker access to funds of about $1.5-million available through Sec. 37 in the City’s Planning Act.

He said charities and non-profits who may need fast cash to secure a rooming house would have access to it.

David Chang, a landlord in the area who owns a home that rents to low-income residents, said the initiative is important and is a long time coming.

He said he has been offered millions for the home to sell, but won’t do it.

“We’ve been offered a few times,” says Chang. “It’s incredibly tempting.  If someone comes over and offers a lot of money, I can see a lot of homeowners taking up those offers. My mom has been in the business forever and it’s not just about the money.  We see a lot of our tenants as a part of a family.”

Joshua Barndt works for the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, which conducted a Parkdale rooming house study. They found a very concerning trend of rooming house loss.

While there are currently 198 active rooming houses with 2700 units, many of those are at risk of being converted.  He says over the past ten years, 350 tenants have been de-housed when 28 rooming houses were sold.

“It’s extremely important that the city make available the adequate funds to do housing preservation around our affordable rooming house stock,” says Barndt. “It’s an important stock in our community.  In Parkdale, we are experiencing a very concerning trend of rooming house closure.”

City council will consider this motion during the May 22 council meeting.

Gord Perks hopes that if the pilot project is approved, it will serve as an example and eventually, funding will be available city wide.