Ontario Construction News staff writer
Toronto city council has approved a framework to activate the Social Medicine Initiative (SMI) housing partnership to create new permanent supportive housing in the Parkdale neighbourhood.
The city, the University Health Network (UHN) and the United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) developed a unique SMI model that will use land owned by UHN and coordinate resources from all three partners to develop a range of housing and important health and social services onsite.
It builds on the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Toronto, UHN and UWGT to establish the SMI. The same MOU was central in establishing COVID-19 hotel recovery sites during the pandemic and continues to lead an approach to improve the quality of care for marginalized patient populations.
The lands owned by UHN in Parkdale include most of the block bounded by King Street West, Close Avenue, Dunn Avenue and Springhurst Avenue – both institutional and residential properties.
Council also approved a planning application to expand the Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre on institutional lands and include a new six-storey addition with 192 beds. As part of the planning application, UHN agreed to protect the rental tenure of the residential properties onsite for at least 49 years.
Subject to ongoing partner discussions, 13 residential properties will be transferred to the city and managed by a not-for-profit organization in the short term.
The ultimate goal is to redevelop the properties ‘with community for community’ to create more affordable and supportive housing. As part of this process, staff will begin working with the UHN, UWGT, existing tenants, local community partners and the ward councillor to plan for the future redevelopment within the block.
The SMI housing initiative is an innovative approach that will see affordable housing integrated with health care and social services to help vulnerable populations improve their health outcomes.
It will provide more housing opportunities for people who are currently under-served by the healthcare system while experiencing homelessness and other challenges imposed by poverty.
This project is part of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, a comprehensive blueprint to assist more than 341,000 people with a focus on creating permanent housing solutions. The Action Pan targets 40,000 new affordable rental home approvals, including 18,000 supportive housing units.
Further details on the framework are provided in the staff report.