Modular housing projects to go ahead, council decides

The city is moving ahead with two modular housing initiatives, including a project in East York that has raised local controversy.

Council yesterday authorized staff to to begin the selection of non-profit housing providers to operate the modular building at 175 Cummer Ave. in the Newtonbrook neighbourhood of Willowdale ward and at 20 Bracebridge Ave. in the Woodbine Heights neighbourhood of Beaches-East York ward.

It’s the project on Bracebridge, in an existing parking lot abutting Trenton and Cedarvale avenues, that has been most controversial.

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Mayor John Tory first announced on Feb. 23 the two sites that had been chosen for the second phase of the city’s modular housing initiative, calling them “critical to supporting the health and well-being of our city and its residents.”

A 64-unit building on the East York site would provide affordable housing and support services for individuals experiencing homelessness, he said.

The item before city council June 8 also reduced the number of dwelling units at that site to 59 and passed with only one vote against — from an Etobicoke councillor.

Opposition to the East York project came mainly from residents in the area.

modular housing rdenering
THE FUTURE: An early city rendering of modular housing at the East York site, as seen from the property’s northeast corner at Trenton and Cedarvale avenues.

On May 17, an online community meeting with city staff, Mayor John Tory and local councillor Brad Bradford about the modular housing initiative drew about 350 participants, many of whom said they supported homeless housing but were concerned about a lack of information about this project. It was being rushed through too quickly, some said.

A group called East York Cares, which has more than more than 600 members on its private Facebook page, has been harder hitting.

In several statements, they expressed concern about the impact of the proposed housing on the local community, with a facility exclusively for single adults being placed close to amenities for children in and around Stan Wadlow Park, including a swimming pool, an arena and sports fields.

Call for delay

Bradford and city staff said, based on experiences with projects in other parts of the city, public safety issues in the East York neighbourhood were not expected to increase.

But representatives of East York Cares claimed in a May 19 letter to council the experience of neighbours around the recently opened modular housing project on Macey Avenue, near Danforth and Victoria Park avenues, was of police “being called multiple times a day assisting with settling disputes, mental health issues, medical issues, fire alarms and substance abuse” and of reported break-ins and discarded needles and feces being found in a local parkette.

The group called on council to delay final approval of the building until their public safety and other concerns had been dealt with.

However, after council’s go-ahead yesterday, the city will next seek from the province a rezoning of the Bracebridge lands to allow the development of modular housing on the site.