Affordable housing will replace parking in Toronto in Mass Timber Pilot Program

Written by
Erin Nicole Davis

A parking lot in Toronto will soon become eco-friendly, affordable rental housing thanks to a new Mass-Holz pilot program.

Today Mayor John Tory — along with Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão (Davenport) and Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York) — announced a pilot program that will create new affordable rental housing on the city-owned site at 1113-1117 Dundas St. W. ( Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue), currently operated as a parking lot by the Toronto Parking Authority.

This 100-unit project – the first of its kind in Toronto – will take a new approach to climate protection to create affordable housing, using solid wood and other low-carbon materials for construction. Development is designed to the highest level of the Toronto Green Standard Version 4. To achieve this stage, this development will use no on-site fossil fuels, maximize on-site renewable electricity, and use bulk wood and other low-carbon materials as much as possible. As a result, the building will have near-net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

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“Through this pilot program, it is expected that a new, scalable, affordable and market-driven housing solution (a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program) will be developed that can be replicated at other city-owned locations throughout Toronto,” according to a press release issued by the city .

The City highlights the expected benefits of this approach to residential/mixed-use development, including faster construction times; reduced costs 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.

“The proposal to convert a city-owned parking lot at 1117 Dundas Street West into a new form of sustainable, affordable, mid-elevation housing is exactly the kind of project Toronto needs right now,” said Council Member Joe Cressy. “We must seize every opportunity to build new sustainable and affordable housing, and that includes unlocking the potential of community real estate. This is really a new model for sustainable, mid-range affordable. Let’s do this now across the city to keep our communities vibrant, diverse and accessible—now and in the future.”

According to the city, the pilot program will primarily focus on the development of medium-sized buildings, but may also include the analysis of both missing medium-sized (residential types such as townhouses, semi-detached houses, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings) and high-rise development through a solid wood formwork. The city says mass timber construction presents an opportunity to rapidly expand Toronto’s supply of affordable housing.

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“The pilot program announced today will demonstrate not only our commitment to becoming a greener city, but also that this approach can help build affordable, affordable housing,” said Mayor John Tory. “Using innovative and modern ideas like mass timber construction will help us deliver 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 that would provide us with a new way to address the affordable housing challenges in our city. This is good news for our city and a clear testament to the work we do to drive new ideas and implement solutions to some of our city’s pressing problems.”

Staff will report to the Planning and Housing Committee in Q4 2023 on the results of the pilot program and, if successful, a full set of recommendations for establishing a new permanent Mass Timber Affordable Housing program.

Written by
Erin Nicole Davis

Erin Nicole Davis is a Toronto born and raised writer with a passion for the city and its civic affairs and culture.

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