Residents in a Toronto suburb are banding together to try and save a parking lot from being turned into an affordable housing complex.
The parking lot in East York is slated to be the site of a 64-unit public housing complex to “provide stable, affordable housing and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness.” Each self-contained studio unit will contain a twin bed, kitchen, and bathroom, according to the city, and is part of a three-year plan to build an additional 1,000 modular homes by 2030.
But residents who live near the planned site in East York, on the east side of Toronto, told Global News they don’t want an affordable housing complex to take over their beloved parking lot.
“The community depends on this site,” said resident Steve Bland. “This parking lot is a hub, is the heart of the community.”
“To increase the population density here with 64 units of people going through the most troubling difficult times of their lives, this may not be the appropriate place to do it,” Bland continued.
Fellow East York resident Mark Battenberg—who appears to work in real estate—told Global News residents have “a lot of safety issues and concerns” about the development. He said he felt the community hadn’t been consulted at all about the complex.
Both men said the parking lot is used by parents taking their kids to recreational activities like hockey and swimming and is near an elementary school.
According to the city’s website, there will be an online community engagement meeting about the project on March 17.
“The City recognizes the use of the parking lot and is working to outline alternate parking options, which will be discussed and shared with the community at the upcoming community meetings,” the city’s website says, noting city employees are open to hearing ideas about “how to support and integrate the new residents into the neighbourhood.”
The controversy comes at a time when the city and Mayor John Tory are facing backlash over their decision to sue Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter who has been building tiny shelters for unhoused people this winter. The city has destroyed some of the tiny shelters, arguing they pose a fire hazard.
Meanwhile, many of Toronto’s shelters are at capacity or are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that homeless people in Ontario were more than 20 times more likely to be hospitalized following a COVID-19 diagnosis and five times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test.
About two weeks ago, Toronto’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, confirmed the COVID-19 variant had been detected in some shelters.
On Sunday, the city announced it has adjusted its vaccination priorities and will begin vaccinating people in homeless shelters this week.
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