For Indigenous people, by Indigenous people: City of Toronto develops housing site

by Editor

The City of Toronto and CreateTO have named the development partners for the first Housing Now site led by Indigenous people for Indigenous elders.

The Missanabie Cree First Nation has been named the development partner for new homes at 140 Merton St., according to Mayor John Tory and Chief Jason Gauthier of the Missanabie Cree First Nation.

Deputy Mayor Ana Bailo (Davenport), Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, Nicholas Gefucia, Vice President, EllisDon Community Builders, and members from CreateTO were present with Mayor Tory and Chief Gauthier.

The location at 140 Merton St. will be the first Housing Now non-profit development overseen by an Indigenous group, and it will be devoted to offering older citizens and elder Indigenous Peoples housing alternatives. It will deliver 184 new rental residences, of which about 50% will be cost-effective. The average rent for the affordable dwellings will be 77% of the average market rent (AMR), and 15% of these units are designated as profoundly cheap (40 per cent of AMR). The structure will also provide inhabitants with indoor and outdoor facilities, a smudging room, and ceremonial space.

SPRINT Senior Care, a neighborhood organization that helps seniors in midtown Toronto age in place, now calls the location home. When work is finished, SPRINT will temporarily move next door and then relocate to 140 Merton St. The city will also be providing an extra communal space as part of the renovation for the senior community in midtown Toronto as well as the prospective residents of 140 Merton St. The operator of this community center will be chosen through a competitive call for proposals process that will be run by the City.

Beginning in 2019, community discussions and consultations regarding the proposed renovation of 140 Merton St. were undertaken by city personnel in collaboration with the local council member. Two public open houses and various community engagement initiatives were part of these efforts. A Request for Proposals (RFP) for this location was sent out to the nonprofit community in June 2021.

Responses to this request for ideas came in large numbers for the City. The Missanabie Cree First Nation, whose team includes EllisDon Community Builders, received the project as a result of their expertise in providing supportive housing for elders, affordability, and financial commitments. By leading and supporting (including financially) efforts in health, elder care, affordable housing, economic development, relationship-building, culture, and intercultural discussion, the Missanabie Cree First Nation actively promotes community building and reconciliation.

The Housing Now Initiative, which involves reserving City-owned property and offering financial incentives for the construction of affordable housing in mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented communities, is helping the City support the completion of this project. For a total of more than 14,600 new residential houses around Toronto, including more than 10,000 rental homes, of which roughly 5,500 will be affordable rental homes, 21 sites have received approval as part of the Housing Now Initiative.

The HousingTO 2020–2030 Action Plan’s core strategic actions, such as strengthening collaborations with Indigenous community partners and addressing the various housing requirements of seniors, are further advanced by today’s announcement. A target of approving 40,000 additional affordable rental houses by 2030, including 18,000 support homes, was also set by the HousingTO Action Plan. Indigenous Peoples will get 5,200 of these new affordable and supportive houses, which will be directly provided by Indigenous housing providers with assistance from the City and other governmental bodies. A Memorandum of Understanding between the City’s Housing Secretariat and the Miziwe Biik Development Corporation was signed in October of last year to facilitate the construction of 5,200 new affordable rental and supportive houses for Indigenous persons around Toronto. To assist in implementing these collaborations and combat escalating construction costs and interest rates, the City will work with Indigenous development partners to obtain capital commitments from other tiers of government.

The City is dedicated to supporting Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination and promoting truth, healing, and justice with them. Toronto has the largest Indigenous population in Ontario and the 4th largest in Canada. Indigenous Peoples continue to make up a disproportionate amount of Toronto’s homeless population and have difficulties in locating and keeping safe, affordable homes. The City will endeavor to promote Indigenous-led solutions to the distinct housing difficulties faced by Indigenous Peoples in Toronto while continuing to support Indigenous community partners via the execution of the HousingTO 2020–2030 Action Plan.

More than 200 Indigenous households were accommodated in a variety of brand-new and pre-existing supportive housing possibilities around the city in 2020 and 2021, including 389 Church St., 11 Macey Ave., 321 Dovercourt Rd., and 877 Yonge St. More than 300 more Indigenous households were also given housing benefits to help them pay their rent.

It is planned for construction to start on 140 Merton St. in November 2023, and occupancy to start in January 2026.

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