Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, City of Toronto staff were preparing to bring forward a report to the March 23 Planning and Housing Committee meeting outlining the proposed implementation plan. However, as a result of the pandemic, regular committee and council meetings have been cancelled and the need for supportive housing, while significant before, increased considerably.
Now, more than ever, an increased effort has been made to move ahead on the modular pilot and expedite delivery. Staff are recommending entering negotiations with Horizon North for the manufacturing, design and installation of up to 110 modular homes in two, three-storey developments – representing Phase I of the City’s modular housing pilot. The terms of the proposed contract will be reviewed and considered by City Council at its April 30 meeting. A full request for proposal (RFP) will be issued in the summer of 2020 for the second phase of the pilot, representing an additional 140 modular supportive homes to be completed by April 2021.
The full capital costs for Phase I of the pilot is estimated at $20.9 million. Funding would come from the City's Development Charges Reserve Fund for Subsidized Housing, and from the Government of Canada through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, which has committed $8.25 million in grants and recoverable loans.
Operating funding for health-related support services and housing subsidies will be requested from the Province, so that deeply affordable supportive homes can be delivered at the sites.
Modular housing, prefabricated in a factory and then transported to the site where it is assembled, can be implemented at a lower cost and shorter timeframe than traditional housing construction models. While this would be the first modular housing project by the City of Toronto, it has been used in many other jurisdictions in North America. Modular housing provides a unique opportunity to respond rapidly to the city's urgent homelessness situation, while also reducing pressure on the City's shelter system.
The guiding principles for the pilot are:
- Provide a rapid, dignified response to connect people experiencing homelessness with homes and appropriate supports to help them achieve housing stability.
- Develop a supportive housing model based on partnerships with other orders of government, the non-profit and the private sectors.
- Create permanent, high quality, energy-efficient modular homes to ensure that people can establish housing stability and connect to their local community.
- Prioritize the selection of sites that are close to both public transit and community and social services.
- Prioritize the retention of City-owned sites by negotiating long-term land leases.
- Achieve the highest possible public benefits from City-owned land.
- Commit to meaningful public consultation and engagement.
Staff are in the process of identifying City-owned/controlled sites appropriate for the development of modular housing. As part of a future report, subject to Council approval, the City will offer the identified sites through 35-year leases for nominal sums to non-profit operators selected as part of a request for proposals process.
More details on the proposed implementation plan can be found in the staff report: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.CC20.6
"We know helping people with supportive housing is good for everyone and modular housing is a way to make that happen faster. The pandemic has heightened the need for supportive housing and I have asked City staff to move this project at an urgent pace. This partnership model for building and operating new supportive homes, through support from all orders of government and community partners, is critical to supporting the health, socio-economic and environmental well-being of residents. I continue to work with the other orders of government to ensure this initiative and the entire HousingTO Action Plan is fully funded and delivered."
- Mayor John Tory
"The bold vision and targets outlined in our City's HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan are moving forward with significant steps only months after the HousingTO plan was approved by Council. These 110 modular homes will provide stable and affordable homes as well as support services to individuals experiencing homelessness, while also reducing pressure on the City's shelters particularly at a time when there is urgency to fast implement these innovative housing approaches and manage this crisis with long lasting solutions. It is a cost effective approach that delivers better health and housing outcomes. We’re moving forward on our commitment to ensure that Toronto is a place where families and individuals can live in safe, well-maintained and affordable housing."
- Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, (Ward 9 Davenport), Planning and Housing Committee Chair
"Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home. Today's announcement will build new housing quickly for those individuals experiencing homelessness. Projects like these are even more important as we work together to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement builds on the over $150 million the Government of Canada provided to help cities across Canada deal with the impacts of COVID-19 on the homeless population."
- The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development