Chow encouraged by housing-focused federal budget, disappointed at lack of funding for subway trains

Mayor Olivia Chow says she is encouraged by the housing-focused federal budget released Tuesday, saying this means, for Torontonians, they can start building housing.

“Whether it is to buy existing buildings, moving people into shelters, protecting expanding affordable housing, all of that (is in) there,” Chow shared in a press conference following the budget announcement.

Several of the housing announcements in the budget had been made previously including loans and contributions to non-profits to acquire more rental housing as well as funding for builders that are using new innovations like pre-fabricated or modular housing.

Affordable housing advocates say there are a number of city projects that have been sitting on the shelf waiting for this kind of funding.

For years, the city’s been planning a major housing development on the land surrounding Islington subway station, which is a transit hub for the subway and buses along with a large surface parking lot.

“Four towers, up to 55 storeys, for 14-hundred residential units – much of which would be considered affordable,” said Mark Richardson, the HousingNowTO Technical Lead. “We could start parceling up these parking lots right now and the feds could be arriving with the funds, both of loans and grants, to make the affordable housing work on these sites.” 

Billions in federal funding laid out in the budget will help with projects like this – and others on a much smaller scale – with low-cost loans and grants to support building rental housing.

President and CEO of Toronto Region Board of Trade, Giles Gherson, said while more money for infrastructure is key, roads and transit are also a major factor in making sure Toronto thrives.

“It’s billions of dollars in costs and it’s very needed for the economy, for the city to work properly to be able to get people to work and back home. To be able to get people to retail and do what they want to do. Get around the city. Mobility is crucial also for goods and services not just people,” said Gherson.

Chow was disappointed at the lack of funds for transit this year in the budget, saying it’ll keep them from being able to submit an order to replace the aging Line 2 subway cars.

“We are not able to unlock the $1.6 billion that we’ve put aside to both the provincial and municipal government, but I will keep working to negotiate the funds to replace this aging Bloor subway cars and I’m hopeful that we will be able to find some funding for it.”

Other priorities included in the budget that will impact Toronto include the National School Food Program, something Chow has emphasized a need for, and more funding to help housing refugees.

The budget includes $1.1 billion over three years, starting in 2024-2025, to extend the Interim Housing Assistance Program. Chow said that “would cover what the city needs in sheltering over 6,000 refugees this year. And the federal government committed to support our shelter system so we are very happy that they’ve delivered.”