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Chow welcomes housing spending in federal budget, disappointed by lack of funding for new subway cars

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Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow welcomed the federal government’s housing-focused budget but was disappointed that there was no money for the TTC Line 2’s subway cars.

“There’s quite a lot in here,” Chow said about the budget at a press conference on Tuesday. “Which means, for Torontonians, we can start building housing -- and some percentage of it will be affordable.”

The budget tabled Tuesday includes $4 million over two years for Canada Lands Company to support new modular housing projects, including one in Downsview.

In addition, the government said it was unlocking five federal properties as part of its Public Lands for Homes Plans to build over 800 new homes, including 100 in Toronto’s Arbo neighbourhood.

This follows the federal government’s fall economic statement presented in November, in which Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland pledged $15 billion in new loan funding that could help build more than 30,000 new rental units nationwide.

According to data from the Census Metropolitan Area in 2023, there were just under 10,000 new units built to rent in 2023. Toronto had the third-largest amount of units built that year, just below Montreal and Vancouver.

“What’s encouraging is addressing homelessness [and] encampments,” Chow said.

“Topping up the housing accelerated funds, we already received quite a bit of that, close to half a billion. The new Canada housing fund is about 13 million, and so they are different programs, making it easier to own or rent a home […] they are looking at building skills workers, trying to train skills workers because we need them, there’s a housing affordable fund coming in which is about 100 million.”

The budget also includes the exploration of the redevelopment of National Defense properties in Toronto, Halifax and Victoria for military and civilian use.

Chow is also relieved that the program for housing refugees was renewed. The budget includes $1.1 billion over three years to extend a housing assistance program for asylum claimants and $743.5 million over five years to strengthen the asylum system and streamline the claims and removal processes.

What’s not in the budget is money for new TTC Line 2 subway cars. The transit agency has said it needs at least 55 new subway cars to replace the aging fleet on the line. The province has already promised to provide $750 million in funding contingent on matching from the federal government.

Chow said she will continue to negotiate with Ottawa to find funding for the subway cars.

“Feds are perhaps looking to repurpose the infrastructure funds, because there’s $20 billion for Ontario in 2024-25, so perhaps some of it can be reallocated. I don’t know. That requires some negotiation, and perhaps they are looking at other sources of funding,” she said.

Other federal funds for Toronto include, $23 million for the Toronto International Film festival over the next three years. There will be an additional $11 million to go towards the Department of Canadian Heritage to support the Sikh Arts & Culture Foundation, with the ROM creating museum space inside to be dedicated to the foundation’s arts, culture and heritage.

There will be $10 million in funds for repairs to the Toronto Harbourfront Centre over two years, with work beginning in 2024-25.

Funding will continue to go into the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), with a proposed $114.7 million to be provided to enhance its intelligence and presence in Toronto.

Additionally, the budget includes proposed funding for a high-frequency VIA rail train, with locations stopping in major centres of Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, Montreal, Ottawa, Peterborough and Toronto.

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