SMI Housing Partnership Will Create New Permanent Supportive Housing In Parkdale

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Representative Photo by Hjrklai on Unsplash

TORONTO: City Council has approved a framework to activate the Social Medicine Initiative (SMI) housing partnership that will create new permanent supportive housing in the Parkdale neighbourhood.

Recognizing the inextricable link between poverty, health and social outcomes, and the need to take a systemic approach to improve the lives of residents across the city, the City of Toronto, the University Health Network (UHN) and the United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) have developed a unique SMI model that will use land owned by UHN in Parkdale to create new permanent supportive housing.

The plan will coordinate resources from all three partners to develop a range of housing and important health and social services on site.

This partnership builds on the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City, UHN and UWGT to establish the Social Medicine Initiative. This MOU was central in establishing a number of COVID-19 hotel recovery sites during the pandemic that resulted in caring for more than 1,300 patients and families and continues to inform a social medicine approach in improving the quality of care for marginalized patient populations.

The lands owned by UHN in Parkdale include the majority of the block bounded by King Street West, Close Avenue, Dunn Avenue and Springhurst Avenue and include both institutional and residential properties.

City Council also approved a planning application to expand the Lakeside Long-Term Care Centre on the institutional lands to include a new six-storey addition with 192 beds.

The new long-term care beds will support the continuum of housing and care envisioned for the site. As part of the planning application, UHN also agreed to protect the rental tenure of the residential properties onsite for at least 49 years.

Subject to ongoing partner discussions and future approval by Council, the 13 residential properties on this site will be transferred to the City of Toronto and managed by an experienced not-for-profit organization in the short term.

The ultimate goal is to redevelop the properties ‘with the community for community’ to create more affordable and supportive housing. As part of this process, City 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.

As part of a visioning and master planning exercise for future redevelopment of the lands, consideration will be given to longer-term redevelopment that can provide for appropriate intensification as well as shorter-term solutions that help meet the immediate need for new affordable housing.

Shorter-term options could include modular housing on the vacant parcels as well as the large parking lot at 150 Dunn Avenue. Staff will also evaluate privately-owned lands close to those owned by UHN, for opportunities to create a more efficient redevelopment and will report back to Council in 2021.

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. Furthermore, this systems integration approach will reduce the number of patients who require an alternate level of care and provide them with the supports they need to live successfully while also reducing the pressures on the overall health and social services system.

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.

Mayor John Tory said: “It is critical that we work with our healthcare and community partners to remove barriers and improve the wellbeing of vulnerable residents. The coordination and integration of health and social services with affordable housing through the SMI housing initiative is a shining example of what is possible when we work in partnership across sectors and with the community to do things better. Through this partnership, we will not only increase access to good quality, dignified homes but also help residents to live successfully in those homes.”

Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, (Ward 9 Davenport), Planning and Housing Committee Chair, said: “The initiative is exactly the type of approach we need to ‘build back better. By working collaboratively, we will be able to make real systemic and structural changes and help vulnerable residents, including people experiencing homelessness, improve their housing, health and social outcomes.

“This initiative will also contribute to the HousingTO 2020- 2030 Action Plan target of approving 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 new supportive housing units over the next decade.”

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