Mass Timber Pilot Program For Affordable Toronto Rental Housing

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced a pilot program that will bring new affordable rental housing to the city-owned site at Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue, currently operating as a Toronto Parking Authority parking lot.

“The pilot program announced today will demonstrate not only the commitment we have to becoming a greener city but that this approach can allow help build cost-effective affordable housing,” said Mayor John Tory. “Using innovative and modern ideas like mass timber construction will help us deliver high-quality designs and buildings that will contribute to our goal of net zero emissions by 2040. Once the pilot project is up and running, the results could lead to a new development model, which would add a new way for us to address the affordable housing challenges in our city. This is good news for our city and a clear demonstration of the work we are doing to advance new ideas and implement solutions to pressing issues faced by our city.”

This 100-home project – the first of its kind in Toronto – will take a new climate action approach to deliver affordable housing using mass timber and other low-carbon materials for building construction. The development is being designed to the highest tier of Toronto Green Standard Version 4. To reach this tier, this development will see no on-site fossil fuel use, maximize on-site renewable electricity, and use mass timber and other low-carbon materials as much as possible. As a result, this building will be near net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“Pending the outcomes of the pilot program, Toronto could have a new cost-effective building option to increase the supply of affordable housing while also achieving a lower carbon footprint than traditional steel and concrete construction,” said Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Davenport), Chair, Planning, and Housing Committee. “Making the model replicable will also help speed up the design, development, and construction processes, and ultimately expedite the delivery of much-needed housing across the city.”

Through this pilot program, it is anticipated that a new, scalable, affordable market housing solution (a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program) will be developed that can be replicated on other City-owned sites across Toronto.

The anticipated benefits of this approach to residential/mixed-use development include:

  • faster construction timelines,
  • reduced cost due to efficiencies,
  • reduced greenhouse gas and material (embodied carbon) emissions from the housing, transportation, and construction sectors, and
  • improved quality of life for future residents while optimizing the density of affordable housing on targeted city-owned real estate assets.

Mass timber construction presents an opportunity to scale up the supply of affordable housing in Toronto rapidly. The pilot program will focus primarily on mid-rise development. Still, it can also include analyzing both missing middle (housing types such as laneway houses, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and low-rise apartment buildings) and tall building development through a mass timber form.

The new homes at 1113-1117 Dundas St. W. will support the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan objectives and create much-needed affordable housing options for a range of households, including those from equity-deserving groups, while also supporting the advancement of the city’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.

“The proposal to turn a City-owned parking lot at 1117 Dundas Street West into a new form of sustainable, mid-rise affordable housing is exactly the type of project Toronto needs right now,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York). “We must take advantage of every opportunity to build new sustainable and affordable housing, and that includes unlocking the potential of municipally-owned properties. This is truly a new model for sustainable, mid-rise affordable. Now, let’s do this right across the city to make our communities vibrant, diverse and accessible – now and into the future.”

Staff will report back to the Planning and Housing Committee in the fourth quarter of 2023 on the pilot program’s results and, if successful, on a full set of recommendations to establish a new permanent Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program.

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