City urged to acquire Rogers properties for affordable housing

By Laura Hull –

 Toronto Centre resident Adam Wynne has started a petition calling on the City of Toronto to expropriate properties owned by Rogers Communications and use them for affordable housing. The properties, some of them heritage houses at Huntley and Isabella Streets, have sat vacant for years, Wynne says.

“We have an active housing crisis in the city. It has been an open secret downtown that the Rogers houses have been empty for multiple years,” said Wynne. “This seems like a great oppor­tunity to use existing housing resources to house people.”

Rogers acquired the prop­erties – from 30 to 40 Huntley Street and 112 to 124 Isabella Street – to potentially expand its nearby headquarters almost a decade ago, according to prop­erty records at the Ontario Land Registry. However, more staff work from home following the Covid-19 pandemic, and the buildings have sat empty.

38-40 Huntley Street. Photo: Adam Wynne

Wynne says a large ground-level parking lot on the properties could be repurposed into housing. “The 1970s town­houses on Isabella could be tak­en down,” Wynne said. “The houses on Huntley Street are heritage houses, and those are going to lose their heritage sta­tus at the end of the year, unless they’re designated in the next few months,” he added.

“Just one block away is Mary Sheffield’s house, which was a heritage mansion on Jarvis Street, converted for use as a residence by older women who are underhoused. We also have similar initiatives on Winches­ter Street, on Carlton Street, and on Parliament Street. It’s a mod­el that has worked for this area of the city and it could continue to work if we’re able to acquire these properties,” said Wynne.

On April 19, Ward 13 Coun­cillor Chris Moise responded to the petition on the Toronto Centre Projects website, saying “I have spoken with Rogers who has shared that they originally bought the Jarvis and Isabella properties as part of plans for an office expansion…Rogers is now exploring how this land can be used to create more housing in Toronto –in­cluding rental housing – and is investigating interim uses for these properties.”

Rogers had a nearby office at 350 Bloor Street East recently rezoned, Moise added, “which will create 806 new residential units, with 16 of them operated by a non-profit.”

“At the moment, the city will not be moving towards the ex­propriation of private property,” added Moise .

the bridge reached out to Rog­ers for a comment but did not receive a reply.

To see the petition, click on “Proposals” at https://torontoc­