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Council votes overwhelmingly in favour of mayor's housing initiative

Last Updated Jan 30, 2019 at 6:23 pm EDT

Toronto city council has voted overwhelmingly in favour of John Tory’s affordable housing initiative.

Council voted 21-4 in favour of creating 10,000 new residential units – two-thirds of which will be rental housing – at 11 city-surplus properties.

Tory said shovels could be in the ground as early as next year.

Among the first four sites targeted for redevelopment are a pair of subway parking lots at 777 Victoria Park Avenue and 50 Wilson Heights Boulevard. The remaining seven sites would be developed in 2020-21.

However, councillors Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam – who voted against the mayor’s Housing Now plan – said the affordable units “do not go far enough to meaningfully affect change.”

“We need bold steps. Other municipalities are looking at 100 per cent of the units built on city lands as affordable. I think when we look at the numbers, it’s more like 30 in this case, and I think we can do better,” Layton said prior to the vote.

A motion to have 50 per cent of the units made available for affordable housing failed to pass.

Tory said the Housing Now plan is “an important first step.”

“What we cannot allow to have happen is to have this first step not move forward quickly,” he added.

Councillors were also scheduled to vote on an initiative that seeks to declare the city’s homelessness and housing crisis a state of emergency.

Earlier this month, Wong-Tam called on the city to do so, saying housing is a human right and lack of affordability is having deadly consequences.

According to Wong-Tam, Toronto Public Health recorded 145 deaths of individuals experiencing homelessness, from January 2017 to June 2018.