City must build social housing on vacant property, 230 Fightback rally insists

Laura Hull –

A June 15 rally organized by 230 Fightback demanded that the City of Toronto buy a her­itage house and vacant lots at Dundas and Sherbourne Streets and turn them into social hous­ing.

The owner of 214-230 Sher­bourne, developer KingSett Capital, is one of Canada’s larg­est private equity real estate investment firms. Opposed for several years by anti-poverty and housing activists, KingSett plans to develop the lot into con­dominiums.

Rally participants walked from Allan Gardens to the property, which has sat vacant for 16 years, according to 230 Fightback spokesperson Gaetan Heroux. The group then walked onto the lot through an open fence and continued its gather­ing.

Five police cars arrived and told rally participants they were trespassing on private property. Eventually, however, the police left and the group carried on with free food, speeches from community activists and live music.

“This little block party is our way of retaking the space and reclaiming it,” Heroux said. “We want this property to be developed. But we need social housing, we don’t need another one of these condo towers.”

“We decided today that we would come in and say that this is taking a long time and we need (the city) to do some­thing,” he added. “So we decid­ed that rather than just coming and standing in front, we would actually make use of this prop­erty.”

“Coming through the fence like we did points to something that’s really significant,” John Clarke, another 230 Fightback organizer, told the rally. “I’m not suggesting that it’s the final blow in the struggle, but to re­claim the space, even symboli­cally, is enormously significant because it demonstrates our in­tentions.”

“We don’t want to simply tell the developers that they’re greedy and horrible people, or tell Doug Ford that having de­velopers show up at your home with envelopes of cash is an ob­scenity, or tell Olivia Chow that she won’t stand up to developers – because just our disapproval isn’t going to do much to stop them…What we have to do is mobilize on a bigger scale and distinctly challenge (the devel­oper’s) money-making,” said Clarke.

KingSett Capital outbid the city for the property in 2022, paying about $54 million to a private owner, according to property records obtained by the bridge. Later that year, King­Sett submitted an application to build a high-rise, high-end resi­dential building, but the city has not yet made a decision on it.

In a letter to Heroux, Ward 13 Councillor Chris Moise af­firmed that he and Mayor Chow “are committed to utilizing all our available resources to ac­quire properties that can be developed into affordable and rent-geared-to-income hous­ing.” Since 2022, the city has been trying to buy various prop­erties along Sherbourne Street, including 214 and 230, as part of the Dundas-Sherbourne Neigh­bourhood Revitalization plan.

In the spring of 2023, Moise said, KingSett offered to sell the property back to the city. Fol­lowing a comprehensive evalu­ation, city staff tabled an offer to KingSett based on their analysis of the land’s value. “Sadly, this proposal did not meet King­Sett’s asking price.”

Moise and Chow, according to the letter, told the develop­er it would need to “fully zone the site and provide proof of re­solved flight path issues. They must also resolve the environ­mental and heritage assess­ments, with acquisition pending City Council approval.”

Moise added that KingSett, “despite owning a significant amount of property in Toronto Centre, does not have a strong track record of construction. Most of their properties, some rezoned more than once, remain undeveloped.”

One participant at the rally said “I’m here because of the need for social housing. It’s shameful that the city has al­lowed the property to remain unused in the housing crisis.”

Anne, who works at a so­cial services centre in the area, added, “We need the city to put their money where their mouth is and not push people aside for these big condos.”

The Downtown East area is home to many vulnerable and marginalized residents who experience disproportionately high rates of poverty, violence, crime and poor housing condi­tions. But since the 1990s, the neighbourhood has gentrified, a process expected to continue near the future Moss Park sta­tion of the Ontario Line. Rally organizers fear that if KingSett is able to build the planned con­do, even more low-income peo­ple will be displaced.

Toronto is one of Canada’s most unaffordable cities and is the centre of a housing crisis. Many new condo buildings with above-average rents and small apartments have been built in the last few years, contributing to the affordability crisis.

According to liv.rent, a rental platform that conducts research in Toronto, the average one-bed­room, unfurnished unit in downtown Toronto costs about $2,240 per month. Other pop­ular rental sites – such as Con­dos.ca and Zumper.com – show similar prices in the Downtown East.

Leave a Reply