At Council this month, I put forward a motion for City staff to investigate the implementation of a new modular supporting housing pilot initiative.
Housing development approvals and construction in Toronto is a long-term, multi-year process, while the reality of homelessness demands rapid solutions. Modular and prefabricated housing construction presents an opportunity for the City to pilot the delivery of affordable, supportive housing opportunities for Toronto's homeless faster and at a much lower cost than traditional construction. A new modular supportive housing initiative could provide an urgent and much-needed "housing pathway" for people who are homeless and in emergency shelters, providing new, safe, stable and dignified homes with the support services that so many need.
In recent years, Toronto has utilized public and private real estate to undertake an aggressive expansion of its emergency shelter capacity, with many new shelter beds and respite centres opening to help alleviate homelessness. The City has also committed significant financial and real estate resources to the development of permanent affordable rental housing through the Housing Now Initiative and the Open Door Program. Dedicating underutilized public sites to supportive modular housing opportunities would fill a much-needed gap in the housing continuum.
Since 2016, the City of Vancouver and BC Housing have funded, approved and completed over 600 modular supportive homes at 10 locations through the Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program. Toronto is well-positioned to build on the learnings and successes of Vancouver and launch a pilot program for new modular supportive housing in the City.
On June 5, 2019 the City co-hosted a supportive housing charrette Making Supportive Housing Happen in Toronto with the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness, a community-based collective impact initiative with a vision to end homelessness in Toronto. The charrette was attended by non-profit supportive housing groups and community agencies serving the needs of the homeless, and also explored modular housing as an innovative option to bring supportive housing online in Toronto. Senior staff from Vancouver's Portland Hotel Society highlighted their work in successfully operating supportive modular housing for homeless and vulnerable people.
This motion requests the Executive Director of the Housing Secretariat to continue to consult with the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness on the planning and delivery of the pilot initiative.