City committee backs plan to increase density, amount of affordable housing, on Villiers Island in the Port Lands

This artist's rendering shows the proposed Villiers Island in the Port Lands.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE

Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee approved city staff’s proposal to add density to the original Villiers Island Precinct Plan in the Port Lands in order to maximize the project’s affordable housing component.

On Thursday, June 13, the committee came to a decision following years of groundwork by Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher who expressed delight about the major step taken towards affordability.

“The city has set a very ambitious target of 30 per cent affordable housing for development applications on the new island in the Port Lands, which I worked very hard to achieve,” said Fletcher.

In 2021, Fletcher kickstarted a campaign to include affordable housing in the plans for Toronto’s Villiers Island. This process included a motion the following year which aimed to increase affordable housing targets from 20 to 30 per cent.

As a result of last week’s decision, the Villiers Island project is now expected to provide 9,000 housing units, 2,700 of those being affordable units that will be secured as “long-term or permanently affordable housing aligned with the city’s income-based definition of affordable housing,” according to city staff.

However, at public consultations leading up to construction, community members – and officials – worried about the city’s inability to mandate affordable housing on applications submitted by private developers.

“I don’t want private developers only including a small, token number of affordable units,” said Fletcher. “I want them to work with the city to achieve as much affordable housing as possible so everyone can live on our new, transformed waterfront.”

With little hope placed on the private sector to contribute to Villiers Island’s stock of affordable housing, the city will instead leverage the National Housing Strategy programs as well as provincial operating funding in order to meet the newly approved target.

“This groundbreaking, community-supported plan leverages city-owned land and forward-thinking planning policies to create much-needed purpose-built affordable housing on this impressive new waterfront site,” said Fletcher in a June 13 news release.

A mixed-use community, Villiers Island will house at least 15,000 residents comprising buildings that are between 19 and 46 storeys tall.

This will include a minimum of 80,000 square metres of retail and office space; 7,850 square metres of community space; and a Toronto Public Library neighbourhood branch.

There will be at least one elementary school on the island.

The Villiers Island’s updated affordable housing target is set to be presented for final approval during the Wednesday, June 26, Toronto Council meeting.

As the City of Toronto continues down the path of reconciliation with its Indigenous community, Villiers Island will also be renamed in the fall in order to reflect the city’s Indigenous history.

“The ongoing Port Lands Flood Protection project is creating a new island, new streets, new parks and offers an opportunity for the city to recognize our Indigenous history and advance our reconciliation goals,” said Fletcher.

A permanent name will be presented to Toronto Council’s Executive Committee on Oct. 1.

The Villiers Island project is a collaboration between The City of Toronto, CreateTO and Waterfront Toronto – a partnered corporation created by the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada to oversee and deliver the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront.

For more information on the Villiers Island development, visit https://www.waterfrontoronto.ca/our-projects/villiers-island


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