Toronto’s first modular supportive housing project opens its doors


Toronto’s first modular supportive housing project opened its doors on the weekend, with 56 studio apartment spaces meant to move people out of the city’s homeless shelter system.

The building at 11 Macey Ave., near the Victoria Park subway station, is one of two modular sites approved this year by Toronto council. The other, at 150 Harrison St. near Dundas St. W. and Dovercourt Rd. in Toronto’s west end, is expected to welcome its first occupants to its 44 studio apartments sometime in the coming weeks.

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The addition of the two modular buildings was touted as part of the city’s winter shelter plan for this year, as the system has seen capacity reduced by COVID-19. Homeless shelters across the city have been at or near capacity since at least the start of this month, with hundreds still living in encampments as temperatures have dipped below zero. At the time that the winter plan was released, in October, the city expected the first modular building to open in November.

City council on Friday approved expediting 150 more supportive housing units over the next eight to 10 weeks, using funds the city already has _ and called for $12.24 million in new annual funding from higher levels of government to create another 510 units within 10 to 12 weeks.

Supportive housing, especially during the pandemic this year, has been pitched by the city as the more financially sound option on top of benefits it offers by giving people permanent, stable homes. It costs roughly $2,000 a month to operate a supportive housing unit, by the city’s most recent estimate _ versus more than $3,000 a month before COVID-19 to operate a shelter bed. With capacity restrictions, that shelter cost has more than doubled.

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The Macey Ave. site will be operated by the Neighbourhood Group and COTA Health, under a 35-year-contract announced earlier this fall. The supports provided in the building are meant to range from eviction prevention to connections with healthcare, employment opportunities and income aid programs like Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Modular construction means the new structures are built in a factory setting, then transported to Toronto for final assembly. On-site work began at Macey Ave. in October. The city is already planning for further modular construction projects, touting plans for a second phase sometime in 2021 that will add another 150 units at one or more not-yet-specified sites in Toronto.

The full capital cost for the Macey and Harrison sites was identified as $20.9 million in late October. On Saturday, the city said the capital cost for all 250 planned units would be $47.5 million.

The city is also ironing out details of its plan to spend $203.3 million in federal funding, promised this fall by Ottawa for the acquisition of land, properties and the construction of modular housing projects.

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