Toronto's mass-timber pilot program to create affordable housing
April 25, 2022 | 11:05 am CDT

These are renderings that show mass timber construction, and not specifically the building that will be going in at the Dundas and Ossington site. 

Photo By City of Toronto

The city of Toronto is developing a mass-timber pilot program that will begin with the construction of affordable rental housing on the current site of a municipal parking lot.

This 100-home project is the first of its kind in Toronto and it will take a new "climate action approach to deliver affordable housing using mass timber and other low-carbon materials for building construction," said Mayor John Tory.

An artist rendering Toronto mass-timber pilot program
Artist rendering of what a unit might look like in the Toronto mass-timber project.

The development is being designed to the highest tier of Toronto Green Standard Version 4. To reach this tier this development will see no on-site fossil fuel use, maximize on-site renewable electricity, and use mass timber and other low-carbon materials as much as possible. As a result, this building will be near net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement from the mayor, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, and councilor Joe Cressy

Through this pilot program, it is anticipated that a scalable affordable and market housing solution (a Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program) will be developed that can be replicated on other City-owned sites across Toronto.

The anticipated benefits of this approach to residential/mixed-use development include faster construction timelines; reduced cost due to efficiencies; reduced greenhouse gas and material (embodied carbon) emissions from the housing, transportation, and construction sectors; and improved quality of life for future residents, all while optimizing the density of affordable housing on targeted City-owned real estate assets.

The pilot program will focus primarily on mid-rise development but can also include analyzing both missing middle (housing types such as laneway houses, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and low-rise apartment buildings) and tall building development through a mass-timber form.

The new homes will support the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan objectives and create affordable housing options for a range of households, including those from equity-deserving groups, while also supporting the advancement of the City’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.

Staff will report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the fourth quarter of 2023 on the results of the pilot program, and, if successful, on a full set of recommendations to establish a new permanent Mass Timber Affordable Housing Program.

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).