It’s real estate inflation without counting units: report

A development of townhouses being constructed a few blocks from Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto is forcing local residents to live in “fake affordable housing,” resulting in an exclusionary business model and dislocating families, according to a report released by the United Way of Toronto and Oshawa.

“Affordable housing makes up a real part of our culture,” said Rena Imonuwoke, an organizer with NoBrokenMath. “It’s the glue that holds us together as a community.”

After five years of intense planning, the NoBrokenMath collective has spent decades improving public health through diabetes and asthma education, community gardens and agriculture. In 2015, they began raising awareness about “gentrification at Dundas West and Bloor,” an area that is home to two of Toronto’s major hospitals and hundreds of large landlords.

The report was meant to highlight the major impact of a push to build up the residential section of Dundas West and Bloor. The development, which is part of a larger real estate wave, includes 700 units of units for sale and 1,600 for rent, aimed at a new cohort of “transient urban professionals.”

On one of the blocks of the development, a developer is building 174 units of “affordable housing,” according to the report. They are the result of “design work” by consulting with planners and “conduit construction” — the process by which ground is broken without the benefit of intensive urban design work.

“When you’re involved in construction work and operation of an urban ‘architecture of the cheap,’ you’re doing it as an organization that profited from low-income and non-profit housing,” Ms. Imonuwoke said.

The residents of what the United Way calls the “fake affordable housing” will have to pay “anywhere from 30 to 35 per cent above market value.” In the case of NoBrokenMath co-op flats, they will pay as much as 100 per cent over the market value, according to the report.

Allison Cummings, a Vancouver-based consultant who studies finance of for-profit housing, told the United Way that the “profit maximization” at Dundas West would directly undermine the actual population demand for affordable housing.

Mr. Cummings told the United Way: “This project destroys an important opportunity for living with similar incomes as the majority of people on Bloor Street.”

The developers behind the project say that most of the tenants will also come from the local area. But by ending up in wealthy parts of Toronto, tenants could easily choose to live a different way.

“If they were willing to pay a bit more they could go to the Hintonburg Lofts in the neighbourhood and they could pay the retail price,” Ms. Imonuwoke said. “You’re not forced to live in these downtown towers.”

Ms. Imonuwoke noted the repeated inconsistency between claims from city council and their own technical staff, who promised during the preliminary stage of planning to build enough affordable housing to meet the residential demand, to what can be built only after residents complained.

“Dundas West wasn’t a good fit originally — there’s no good fit,” she said. “They might as well have been trying to sell off buildings on the east side. It’s the same group of communities.”

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