Long before the City of Toronto announced two projects to create new affordable homes for some of its residents in the Downtown area last week, the approach to providing more affordable housing in Chinatown took shape under another development.
该项目位于唐人街Spadina Avenue的315至325号（Spadina Avenue和D'Arcy Street的交界处）。项目开发商悄悄地收购了这块地和上面的建筑，并在那里建造一栋13层的多用途高层公寓楼。
That particular project is located at 315 to 325 Spadina Avenue, right in the heart of Toronto's Chinatown. A developer quietly secured and purchased existing buildings at that location and planned to build a highrise apartment building there. This building at Spadina Avenue and D'Arcy Street will be a 13 storey mixed-use rental property upon completion.
The building will have a total gross floor area of 15,892 square metres and a density of 7.83 times the area of the lot. The overall proposed height is 40.23 metres, exclusive of the mechanical penthouse. The ground floor will contain 988 square metres of retail space fronting on Spadina Avenue and D'Arcy Street, an entrance and a lobby to the residential units above, and access to the loading and underground parking off the rear lane.
A total of 239 rental residential units are proposed within the 12 floors above the ground floor. The unit mix is comprised of 172 studio units (72%), 11 one-bedroom units (5%), 31 two-bedroom units (13%), and 25 three-bedroom units (10%). A total of 35 vehicular parking spaces, to be shared between the residential units and the retail units, will be provided in a one-level below-grade parking garage. A total of 252 bicycle parking spaces are to be provided on the ground floor and within the below-grade parking garage.
In order for this development to move forward, the City made a number of changes to its zoning restrictions. In the past, it is not possible to build tall buildings over 6 to 7 floors along the main stretch of Spadina Avenue. These changes may now open up the flood gate to future developments. A new element seen by many to make this possible for this project is the inclusion of affordable housing within its units.
The ward councillor organized many working groups to speak out in support of affordable housing and protecting small, culturally relevant businesses throughout the development application stage and successfully secured 22 affordable units (approximately 10% of all units) in this building for a 40 year term. This should have been automatic if the City has a requirement in the Zoning by-laws, but the city does not have the authority to require affordable units in new development. Typically, a developer may voluntarily offer only 5% of all units for affordable housing.
In addition to the on-site affordable housing commitment, the City will limit the leasing costs of the retail units to current rent levels, offer existing retail tenants the right of first refusal to lease the new units, and will not allow chain stores on the site (in perpetuity). These retail conditions have never been imposed by the City of Toronto before and were made possible in part by the community’s strong advocacy.
The accomplishments above are a success under the City's current legal and regulatory context, but there are certainly concerns around elements of racism built into the system through which a development is processed, and the inability of the City to secure affordable housing without having to negotiate, or trade off for it.
The ward councillor wants to put forward an Inclusionary Zoning policy so the City has the power to require developers to create a minimum number of affordable units in all new developments, instead of negotiating incremental changes through the planning process. He will also introduce a motion at an upcoming Council meeting aimed to address gaps in the current development application processes to, at the very least, ensure that notices delivered and posted on site are provided in a variety of languages that reflect the communities living around it and increase accessibility for local residents.
There are a few near-term steps already identified that can and should be taken, such as: providing translation services in notices and meetings and “targeted outreach” to culturally specific organizations in neighbourhoods. It is felt that with these steps in place, the fight for affordable housing and preserving the character of Chinatown can be won.
We are seeing gentrification and a growing housing crisis across the city and in Chinatown, and the need for action to reverse this is more urgent than ever before. Putting more affordable housing into the Chinatown neighbourhood may be the right thing to do.
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