Affordable housing top priority for core neighbourhoods: Murray

By Eric Morse –

Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray sees the availability of affordable rental housing as a current major challenge in Downtown Toronto, and believes strongly in the system of neighbourhood consultations he and Ward 27 and 28 councillors McConnell and Wong-Tam have set up as an effective way to address community planning issues on a cross-jurisdictional, non-partisan basis.

In a state-of-the-riding interview, The Bulletin asked Murray whether he foresaw growing problems with affordable rental (non-subsidized) housing in the area, given that much of the riding has a low-income demographic.

“It is a low-income demographic and it’s very challenging,” Murray responded. “What’s happening in Toronto is as the baby boomers retire, the more affluent give up the cars and the big houses, they move Downtown, there’s increased competition for housing, and mostly, people want to own so you see that massive condo boom. So the fact that the West Donlands will be 25% affordable housing I think is really important. That’s just the formal affordable housing.”

“The challenge is for modest and lower-paid working families and individuals who don’t quite qualify for affordable housing supports but can’t afford the market rents out there. There are some good private models that we’re pursuing that along with West Donlands will provide what I like to call ‘market-affordable’ housing.”

“As we get into the third and fourth phases of Regent Park revitalization we should start looking at it as a model for St. Jamestown and for Moss Park, where you also have mixed affordable public housing. I also think that when Mayor Miller was mayor the Tower Renewal project—the environmental renewal of the old 60s-70s-80s concrete towers to make them more affordable, greener, more attractive, lower energy users which is a big part of the cost—was key. It’s underway in St. James Town and they just recently had a design charette, and one of the questions is, given that it’s sitting on one of the biggest parking lots in Canada, how do we re-think these buildings?”

“That’s what the community action planning process is about. In about three of the neighbourhoods—St. Lawrence, Corktown and St. James Town, market-affordable housing has come up as an issue, and the process allows us to find a specific place and a group of people to start creating those projects.”

The planning process divides Toronto Centre (Wards 27/28) into eleven self-defined neighbourhoods. Community planning meetings identify specific neighbourhood needs and projects to fill them, and the legislators attempt to steer civic and provincial project planning into the channels that the communities have identified. Murray points to it as a renewal of the neighbourhood planning processes that Toronto largely pioneered in the mid-20th century. His office has two full-time staff devoted to the project and the councillors have also dedicated resources; an interactive website exists at

“Most of the things that you want to do—transit, the environment, housing, regulations around roads—in almost every case there’s a provincial component and a city component,” “The only way you can really make improvements like affordable housing or Transit City requires strong collaboration between the city and the province. I’m not the mayor and I’m not the premier so I can’t do things at that level, but councillors McConnell and Wong-Tam and I have been trying to sort of erase the boundaries between our roles as city representatives and provincial representatives, and say to our constituents, don’t worry about whether this is a city issue or a provincial issue or who’s going to fund it, or how we’ll solve the problem, we’ll solve it together.”