Recently, North York councillors got their first look at the latest application to revitalize the Toronto Community Housing Corporation property at the Villaways at Leslie Street and Nymark Avenue. Up to now, city planners have been very approving of social housing revitalization schemes, especially when Toronto Community Housing partners with private sector developers known for high-quality building. In this project, the city is partnering with Tridel, a developer with a long-standing reputation for good development and more recently, a leader in environmental programs for condominium developments.
But it was necessary for Toronto Community Housing to be treated with the same rigour as any other developer applicant. Staff recommended refusal of the application, as it called for far too much density on lands that are zoned as neighbourhood (i.e. homes and town homes). Once they delivered their refusal report to the councillors, North York planners began to see greater interest in working together with Toronto Community Housing and Tridel.
For this reason, I moved a deferral of the preliminary report until community council in September. Work on a new look for this proposal has begun in earnest.
Don’t get me wrong — I believe using private partnerships to help fund the rebuilding of social housing units that were poorly built 50 years ago represents huge savings for the taxpayer and can deliver what it promises. This has been proven in other revitalizations such as Regent Park, so today, as each phase of residents returns, not only do new homes greet them, but economic vitality and new community-based jobs do as well.
However, increases in density must be within reason and enhance the neighbourhood outside the Toronto Community Housing complex boundaries as much as within. With eight similar proposals to come in the suburbs to rebuild social housing complexes, much is at stake. For the Villaways community, and also for the sake of the other projects coming forward, I hope to see a far more innovative approach to this application at North York community council in September. If so, refusal will give way to a Ward 33 community ready to gather around the planning process and make social housing revitalization a success.
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