By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As the City of Toronto moves forward to build affordable housing in the Beach, residents raised several concerns at a Housing Now project’s first community consultation meeting.
Housing Now is an affordable housing initiative from the city and CreateTO aimed at using city-owned lands to build mixed-income and mixed-use development. Many sites across Toronto have been considered for new affordable housing developments.
The focus of the online community consultation meeting on the evening of Dec. 7 was the site at 1631 Queen St. E., a small block of land between Queen and Eastern Avenue, just east of Coxwell Avenue to Kishigo Lane.
The 1.19-acre site is the current location of the Beaches Employment and Social Services offices and the Coxwell Early Childhood Centre. The childhood centre is set for expansion, while the employment office will be relocated as part of the Housing Now initiative.
At the online meeting, residents joined Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford, and other staff from CreateTO and the city, to go through a brief presentation on the project and discuss concerns with the community.
“We have to find the right balance, we need reasonable density, we have to respect to the planning framework, and we want to make sure this project is livable, a welcoming community to contribute to the vibrancy of Queen Street East, but also push the envelope to meet our affordable housing goals,” Bradford said.
Residents were concerned that the development would exceed six storeys – the current bylaw restriction on Queen Street East. They also raised concerns regarding the childcare centre during construction, and the increased traffic and congestion that may follow.
“It may well be over six storeys,” city senior planner Paul Mule told residents at the meeting.
Residents Edythe Shand, Jeffrey Levitt, Sapphira Charles, and Michael Genin, all brought up concerns regarding the six storey limit. The presentation showed that while attempts would be made to maintain the height limit for the structure facing Queen Street East, the side facing Eastern Avenue would exceed six storeys.
“It’s an absolute limit,” Genin said. “You can’t do an angular plan back to some unlimited height, but I also understand there needs to be an increase in supply for affordable housing. Is there no way to hit the density goal?”
“I’m concerned because the next developer will ask why they’re limited to six storeys,” Levitt said.
Another resident, John Van Wiechen, raised concerns about increased traffic and parking needs, saying the neighbourhood does not have enough visitor parking to accommodate the new units.
“I really worry about the impact on traffic, visitor parking,” he said. “It’s already overly congested.”
Residents asked other questions regarding accessible green space, design elements, and the temporary relocation of the child care centre during construction.
The development objectives are 300 residential units, of which 50 per cent are affordable housing and 50 per cent are market housing. There will also be new parking, new retail, and the childcare centre will expand capacity from 26 spaces to 62.
Kishigo Lane is expected to be transformed into a landscaped, open space reflecting Indigenous placekeeping and design elements to honour the road’s namesake – an Anishnaabe family that lived in the area in the late 18th century. It’s part of the project’s goal to expand more public space and parks.
Toronto City Council approved the Housing Now mandate in December 2018, and the project launched in fall 2020. The next phase for the Queen and Coxwell proposal follows community consultation, a design review panel, and Indigenous engagement.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2022, with completion expected in 2025.
The next community consultation is scheduled for summer 2021.
For more information on the Housing Now project at 1631 Queen St. E. visit https://createto.ca/housingnow/housing/1631-queen-street-east/
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.