The City of Toronto has announced it will be spending $47.5 million to build 250 supportive modular housing units as part of a pilot project to help those who are homeless.
Officials said two three-storey buildings with 110 units each will be erected by Horizon North on a City-owned site by September. The first phase will cost $20.9 million, of which $8.25 million in grants and loans is being provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The second phase will see 140 units built at a second City-owned site by April 2021.
“I believe supportive housing is one of the best ways in which we can help people to move from homelessness into permanent housing, but you need the spaces built,” Tory said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“Modular housing is our best option to get good-quality units built in weeks not years. I believed this before the pandemic, but given the crisis the need for more supportive housing delivered as fast as possible has become even clearer.”
It’s not clear where exactly in Toronto the sites will be located.
Tory said the City will be asking the Ontario government for help with operating costs in order to ensure “deeply affordable supportive homes.”
As the City continues to work ramping up access to longer-term facilities to house those who are homeless, there is still a large shortage of space.
“Toronto was already experiencing an unprecedented demand for homeless services due to various factors, including a lack of affordable housing options in the city. Despite adding 3,000 shelter spaces since 2015, shelter occupancy remains at capacity with over 8,000 shelter users each night,” a staff report on the initiative said.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has quickly amplified the pre-existing challenges within Toronto’s housing and homeless systems. In addition, it has caused considerable added strain on the emergency shelter system largely due to requirements around physical distancing and isolation.”
Before the announcement, advocates had been calling for urgent action to create such supportive units. A lawsuit was recently filed against the City of Toronto over the response to COVID-19.
While a newer concept in Toronto, other municipalities have turned to modular housing. In 2019, Vancouver city council voted to expand the use and deployment of modular homes across the municipality.
City council approved the initiative during a meeting on Thursday.