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Toronto councillor and advocates push city to purchase vacant downtown properties for affordable housing
March 8, 2022

A Toronto city councillor and community advocates are making one last attempt to convince the city to purchase two vacant properties in the city's downtown for affordable housing instead of being sold to a developer.

"Without urgent government action to build more affordable housing, we will see the humanitarian crisis of homelessness worsen," said Ward 13 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Wong-Tam had requested city staff to look into the feasibility of purchasing 214-230 Sherbourne Street for affordable and supportive housing including rent geared to income.

"The city has hundreds of millions and reserves. This is a property that is known to the city staff, they have been aware of city council's direction to them that included the authority to purchase the property should a willing seller materialize," Wong-Tam told CTV News Toronto.

That report was expected to go before council on March 9, two days before bids will be accepted for the properties.

The two properties near Sherbourne Street and Dundas Street, have sat vacant for more than a decade.

The real estatelisting from Colliers describes the property as a "high rise development opportunity." There is no sale price listed for the two properties.

"We have waited for housing while people continue to die unhoused in our community and on our streets while barely any new, truly affordable, rent geared to income housing stock has been built," said Lindsay Windhager, a harm reduction coordinator at Regent Park Community Health Centre.

"Now is the time for the City to take some concrete action and purchase the site at 214-230 Sherbourne for social housing."

The city has explored expropriating and purchasing the land in the past, but the owner has refused to sell it to the city.

"Sherbourne-Dundas has been dealing with issues of chronic homelessness for far too long. It is time to alleviate some of this suffering by providing affordable rent-geared-to-income housing for the community," said Frank Coburn, an experienced harm reduction practitioner.

The city says staff are still working on the report and evaluating the feasibility of buying the prosperities.

According to Wong-Tam, city staff have missed the opportunity to have the item included on Wednesday's a council agenda, suggesting staff would have to have Mayor John Tory call for a special council meeting.

"The mayor looks forward to hearing from city staff about this once all appropriate due diligence has been done on the property,” said spokesperson Lawvin Hadisi.

CTV News Toronto could not reach the property owners for comment