More affordable apartments to be built near Casa Loma campus

200 Madison Ave. complex will offer rental units below market rates but only nine units will be rent-geared-to-income

A new social housing complex is under construction near George Brown’s Casa Loma campus and while housing advocates welcome the building’s emphasis on providing affordable apartments for low-income tenants, they said the affordability of rent remains in question.

According to a city staff report the buildings at 200 Madison Ave. will have 82 apartments in total including 45 one-bedroom, 27 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom units. Nine of these apartments will be rent-geared-to-income units, meaning that the monthly rent will be 30 per cent of the renter’s income.

The remaining 73 apartments will cost 77 per cent of average rents for similar units in Toronto, which at 2015 rent levels means a one-bedroom would cost $825, a two-bedroom $973 and the three-bedroom $1,143.

According to the 2016 Toronto Vital Signs report, housing is considered affordable only if it costs 30 per cent or less of a household’s income. At the 2015 rates, tenants of 200 Madison would need to make between $39,600 and $56,864 to pay 30 per cent or less of their incomes on rent according to the city staff report.

Natalie Illanes Nogueira is a tenant support and engagement co-ordinator with the Toronto Christian Resource Centre and a graduate of George Brown’s community worker program. She said that its unrealistic for people with low-incomes to afford to live at 200 Madison.

“I know that we are calling that affordable because it’s less expensive than (the market price) but really it’s actually not affordable.”

While Illanes Nogueira said it’s good that 200 Madison is being built, she is concerned that buildings where the units are mostly below-market rent, as opposed to rent geared to income, will become the definition of affordable housing across the city.

Tim Neeb, the developer of 200 Madison, said that the building has been, “designed to create an increase in supply of a mix of affordability levels.” He added that 25 per cent of households in the building will get a housing allowance from the city of $250 or $400 monthly to help make rents more affordable.

Several agencies are signed on to refer and support tenants at 200 Madison, including Community Living Toronto (CLT). While finding affordable housing is a challenge for folks with complex needs, Matthew Poirier, CLT’s manager of policy and stakeholder relations said that they would “never put someone in a place if they are not able to afford it.”

Poirier added that for an organization like CLT, which helps people who are ageing and have mobility issues, 200 Madison represents an opportunity to better support its clients.

For Neeb, creating an active social environment for the tenants at 200 Madison is an important goal. 200 Madison will feature two large common rooms, a library, a green roof, as well as a self-serve pet spa so tenants with pets can interact with each other.

Rusa Jeremic, a professor for George Brown’s community worker program likes the mixture of units at 200 Madison. Jeremic said that while there might be some questions about affordability, the single bedroom apartments offered are helping to address problems with adequate housing in the city.

“It can be hard to find affordable rents for someone who is single, or to find (housing) that is affordable and adequate that’s not an illegal basement or a roommate situation,” said Jeremic. “So the fact that they’ve allocated a number of units to single dwellings is another step in the right direction.”

As of 2014, there were 78,248 active households on Toronto Social Housing wait-list. Between 2010 and 2020, the City of Toronto’s Affordable Housing Action Plan aimed to build 1,000 affordable rental units per year, but has fallen below those targets.

“We’ve been slow. We haven’t met the target every year and that’s based on the availability of funds,” said Simon Liston, manager of housing development in Toronto’s Affordable Housing Office.

Liston explained that 200 Madison is part of Toronto mayor John Tory’s Open Doors program, which aims to cut red tape and provide financial incentives for developers building affordable housing.

A 2015 staff report on 200 Madison projected the building to cost a total of $21.7 million, with the developer chipping in $7 million. With direct funding and exemptions to taxes and fees, Toronto, the federal and provincial governments are putting a total of $14.7 million towards 200 Madison, according to the report.

The apartments are scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

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More affordable apartments to be built near Casa Loma campus