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From The Star:

Rail lands housing depends on cash boost

Apr. 20, 2006. 01:00 AM

It's a dream where families will live in affordable rental units with historic Fort York as a backdrop, just minutes from the heart of downtown Toronto.

Nearby will be a library, daycare centre, community centre and brand-new public and separate schools, plus parks.

What's the catch?

It comes down to money. The $149 million project to construct four buildings on old railway lands between Bathurst St. and Spadina Ave. needs a total of about $25 million from the federal and provincial governments.

Toronto Community Housing Corp. president and CEO Derek Ballantyne is optimistic the public housing agency's plans will go ahead — and that governments will come up with the money.

"In the bank, there's nothing," Ballantyne said yesterday during a tour of the site. But he added that his agency hopes to get funds from affordable-housing deals agreed to under the previous budget accord between then prime minister Paul Martin and New Democrat Leader Jack Layton.

The city is providing the land and waiving development fees, and has offered eventual property-tax breaks on the affordable-housing units. As well, $3 million has been earmarked in the city's affordable-housing capital fund.

To help finance the project, about half of the 650 planned units will be sold at market rates, generating an estimated $10 million.

Some units will also be set aside for affordable ownership.

The remainder will be a mix of affordable rental rates — $1,100 for a three-bedroom apartment, for example — and deeply subsidized rates of $578 for a three-bedroom apartment.

"It's targeting lower-income earners in service industries working downtown but not earning Bay Street dollars," Ballantyne said.

"We want to create family housing for downtown Toronto," said Peter Zimmerman, the agency's housing development manager. "The new housing that has been built has almost exclusively been for singles and young couples."

Construction is not expected to begin until next spring, as various planning approvals are still needed at city hall, as well as funding commitments.

But in the next few weeks, officials are going to do an archeological dig on the site, next to Fort York.

They will be looking for any historic artifacts, given that during some preliminary work, buttons from a War of 1812 uniform were found.
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