Aiming high, or rather above public facilities, could be the solution to the affordable housing shortage in Toronto, according to Oleson Worland Architects.
What if …
… we unlocked the development potential of publicly owned urban properties?
The development of public lands should meet the needs of Toronto’s communities. In addition to schools, parks and recreational facilities, urban residents require access to affordable housing. A stable, affordable place to live is the basic ingredient for Torontonians to realize their potential.
And yet there is an insufficient supply of affordable rental housing units in Toronto. Most of the housing units currently being constructed are in condos, and while many of these will be purchased by investors wanting to rent them out, the units will hardly be affordable.
The backlog of Torontonians waiting for affordable housing units is over 70,000 households. Even if we had adequate funding for construction, where would we build? There are many sites available for privately developed condominiums, but a scarcity of space for affordable housing.
The solution? Utilize air rights — the right of landowners to develop the space above their property — to build new affordable rental housing over publicly owned facilities. The possibilities include City-owned parking lots and garages, as well as libraries, schools, community centres, public health clinics, and provincially owned LCBO stores, most of which are underdeveloped at one or two storeys high.
How would your big idea transform Toronto?
A minimum of 10,000 new affordable rental units is required per year. This idea will allow us to take advantage of existing urban resources, infrastructure and public service facilities to build affordable housing in line with planning policies for promoting urban intensification.
How much would your idea cost and how could it be funded?
In a sense, there is no land cost for this idea. The properties are already owned. The public buildings and property remain in public ownership, and it is the air above that is being used. Site-specific accommodations for the new developments, for instance for access to upper levels or new structural support systems, could be incorporated into the overall financing arrangement for each housing project.
The construction of affordable rental housing projects should be paid for by a co-ordinated partnership of all three levels of government.
Origial article from The Toronto Star, found here.