In My Opinion: Approval of modular housing in East York a cause for celebration

Guest columnist Princess Owusu (inset photo) worked for the past four months with Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford’s office as a Black Youth Fellow, learning more about municipal government and how our elected representatives serve Toronto. In her In My Opinion column which appeared in the most recent edition of Beach Metro News, she writes about the urgent need for affordable housing including the modular project recently approved for this parking lot in East York.

By PRINCESS OWUSU

For the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford’s office as a Black Youth Fellow, learning more about municipal government and how our elected representatives serve Toronto.

Given Councillor Bradford’s support for Business Improvement Areas, promoting economic development within the ward and the businesses, groups and services that tie the city together, I have learned a lot about these issues. The impacts of COVID-19 are dire as hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs, and many businesses have shut their doors.

Each of these issues intersect with yet another emergency: A widespread shortage of affordable housing. This is something I’m acutely aware of as a youth living in Toronto.

This city has an apparent and urgent affordable housing issue. Those without homes need homes, and that should always be a city priority.

In light of this, the City of Toronto’s response has been to create affordable housing units. At the June City Council meeting, a motion was passed to begin the modular housing development within Ward 19 – Beaches East York.

This initiative is not only significant in addressing the needs of Torontonians, but also creates an opportunity to celebrate the future of diverse neighbourhoods.

As tenants throughout the city struggle to afford rent, and mortgages skyrocket, local governance could no longer turn a blind eye to the lack of affordable housing.

Policy responses to both the pandemic and the housing crisis have led to the modular housing development proposal at 20 Bracebridge Ave. in East York. The site is bounded by Trenton, Cedarvale and Bracebridge avenues, and has previously been referred to as “Trenton and Cedarvale”.

This project will ignite the implementation of modular housing as an urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in alignment with the Modular Housing Initiative.

Several articles, plans, proposals and protests have demanded response from city level government and beyond.

Torontonians are ready for equitable change, and have refused to wait idly. Notably, the modular housing developments have proceeded fairly quickly, as the units are to be completed by the end of 2021.

The urgent need for affordable housing within Toronto has fueled the completion of the project not many months after the motion was approved by City Council. This illustrates that when there is a will, things get done.

From what I’ve seen at City Hall, what we need as Torontonians is more of the grit and determination exemplified in this development.

We need the City of Toronto to prioritize the housing crisis, and the ways housing intersects with health, poverty, racial inequality and the other factors that pose risks to the lives of Torontonians.

We need local governance to respond with action. My time as a fellow with Councillor Bradford’s office has affirmed my belief that elected representatives and our local governance have the capacity and, if they choose, the will to execute plans and take action.

This modular housing proposal calls for celebration.

Not only will East York have supportive housing units, but also an opportunity to celebrate the increased diversity within the neighbourhood; to celebrate the city’s capacity and the progress to come; to celebrate the will of local governance and the step towards a safe, healthy, balanced Toronto.

If a housing option can be proposed, adopted and implemented within a year, there is reason to hope; and in the midst of a global pandemic, hope is to be celebrated.


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