Triumph of Justice Over Politics- Part 2

Sunday January 21, 2024
Shahrema Persian Weekly Magazine
Medi Shams - Willowdale Resident


Weakening of empathy, kindness, and the sense of humanity





What happened and how did it happen?





A Thousand new modular homes for the homeless by 2030






First Modular Housing
11 Macey Ave.
56 Residential Units Cost: $190,000/unit


Second Modular Housing 321 Dovercourt Rd.
44 Residential Units Cost: $190,000/unit




Third Modular Home
540 Cedarvale
59 Residential Units Cost: $260,000/unit


Fourth Modular Home
39 Dundalk Street
57 Residential Units
Cost: $384,000/unit

A total of 250 pre-built residential units
Initial cost estimate was $47.5 M
federal government funded $18.75 M and
City funded remainder $28.75


While various factors contribute to the worsening homelessness crisis today, one of the factors that needs to ring alarm bells is the weakening of empathy, kindness, and the sense of humanity. Nowadays, we can see its effects everywhere.

As one of those people who fight against homelessness emphasizes, we should not delay addressing the housing problem for those struggling with addiction and mental illnesses by waiting for their treatment. According to him, we must silence a part of our humanity to continue passing beside another human being facing such difficult circumstances.

I do not intend to delve into the reasons in this series of three articles. Over the past three years, both supporters and opponents in Willowdale have voiced their opinions on the modular housing project at 175 Cummer Avenue, taking actions to either support or oppose it. My aim is simply to describe what transpired, as it may serve as a reflection of our values, democracy, justice, humanitarianism, and civic duties.

In order to gain a better understanding of the impact on the surroundings, I deemed it essential to visit four out of five projects that have already been constructed and are currently in use. These projects consist of a total of 275 prefabricated units, all of which were approved by the Toronto City Council in 2020.

The City of Toronto has laid out plans to address the issue of homelessness by replacing temporary shelters with well-built units, catering to the housing and support service needs of individuals in need. The City  plans to build 1000 of those units by the year 2030.

In terms of design and materials, these modular units are different from their neighbouring buildings, but they're not intrusive. You can pass them without noticing their appearance or functionality. Two residents from the neighbourhood where the first project was built and has been in use for three years said they hadn't noticed anything unpleasant.
Regarding safety, one of the two women I talked to said that every day, she passes in front of this building on foot to go to work, and she has never encountered any unpleasant incident.

The 56-unit located at 11 Macey Avenue in Scarborough, approved by the city council and built in December 2020 using a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) to expedite such projects, was operational at the lowest cost and at the highest speed compared to the other three projects.

This modular housing is operated by a charitable organization with a 100-year+ history serving Toronto neighbourhoods, specialized in owning and operating high-quality affordable and supportive rental housing. This social agency provides services to over forty thousand low-income individuals and families in thirty locations across Toronto every year, addressing the most sensitive community issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental health, unemployment, social isolation, addiction, conflict resolution, violence, youth alienation, and housing through free programs and services.

Another reputable non-profit organization with 45 years of experience serving and supporting individuals with mental health issues collaborates in operating this community.

The construction of the second compound, with 44 residential units at 321 Dovercourt Rd., was also completed in five months, and it became operational in January 2021. This compound is also operated by the same two non for profit organizations.

One of the people whose residence is in front of this compound told me about the neighbourhood opposition to this project, which caused them to lose a large free parking lot. Contrary to their previous expectations, she was surprised by how people living in that building could be so quiet. Occasionally, in the summer, she could see some elderly sitting in their wheelchairs in front of the building, conversing with each other.

It is worth mentioning that the Ministerial Zoning Order for the construction of these two first compounds was issued within one week, while for the other two compounds, was issued within six and twelve weeks, respectively.
Due to opposition from MPP Stan Cho, the Ministerial Zoning Order for the Cummer modular housing was not issued, and the city had to go through a regular rezoning of the site in March 2023, which was approved by the City Council in July of the same year.
The local association Bayview/Cummer, the developer LiVante and the neighbourhood group Voices of Willowdale objected to it in the Ontario Land Tribunal, and eventually, their objection was rejected by the court on January 2nd of this year.

The third compound, located at 540 Cedarvale Ave. with 59 residential units, became operational in November 2022 after thirteen months of construction. Similar to the other two communities, it harmonizes well with its surroundings. Due to various reasons, including inflation and the increased cost of construction materials, the cost per unit in this compound is significantly higher, reaching around $260,000, compared to the other two buildings where it was $190,000 per unit.

The operation of this compound is entrusted to another reputable non-profit organization with an 85-year history of providing physical and mental health services, affordable housing, employment support, financial counselling, child care, programs for the elderly, and youth services to approximately 37,000 residents of Toronto, newcomers, seniors, children, and youth annually, with the help of 854 staff and 724 volunteers.

A resident living near this modular housing expresses satisfaction with initiatives aimed at assisting those in need, despite the associated challenges. He finds the behaviours of a few residents in the compound, who are dealing with mental health issues, tolerable. This is particularly true given the building's proximity to a police station, which has alleviated any safety concerns.

The only five-story modular housing building with 47 residential units located on Dundalk Street among taller buildings make it blend well in the neighbourhood.. More floors and other factors have caused the construction cost per unit of this building to increase to around $350,000.

In the initial estimate, the construction cost of 250 units was estimated at $47.50 million, with the federal government covering $18.75 million, and the remaining $28.75 million dollars being accepted by the city.

It was windy, snowy and too cold to find anyone out of their homes to have a conversation with about the last modular housing.


Triumph of Justice Over Politics (Part 1)




Last Edited 22/01/2024 - For all comments on this site