Rooming house pilot aims to give Parkdale tenants ‘fighting chance’

A Parkdale rooming house fund could give non-profits a “fighting chance” to preserve vanishing affordable housing in a city where existing rules favour private development and profit over people, says one city councillor pushing for the plan to move forward.

“We are losing affordable housing faster than we can build it. That is because in the private market the conditions are such that it is profitable for a landlord to do everything in their power to evict low-income tenants in order to build luxury apartments or luxury homes,” said Councillor Gord Perks, who represents Parkdale-High Park.

“This is specifically designed to deal with the problem of the private market moving faster than the existing funding programs from the government,” he said, or provide that “fighting chance.”

The goal is to create a $1.5 million fund that a non-profit could use to help purchase a Parkdale rooming house. The non-profit has to locate the property, then oversee renovations and operations. The city would, as part of the deal, support that agency on an application to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., to try to secure more money for the project from a new national housing co-investment fund.

The $1.5 million would come through Section 37 benefits, or a process where the city negotiates with developers to secure money or community benefits in exchange for flexibility around zoning rules, including height and density. Perks spoke with the Star after the pilot project was given the green light by the city’s affordable housing committee on Monday morning. The next stop is the mayor’s executive committee, then city council, and, if approved, staff will send out requests for proposals.

Perks said Section 37 funding will never be enough to operate the program long-term, but the pilot should give the city the tools needed to argue for provincial, federal and, more likely, municipal support, given the current political climate.