Advisory Services Panels: An in-person deep-dive
This five-day format allows for a sponsor dinner with 7-10 panelists, followed by an in-depth briefing day composed of a tour of the site and meetings with sponsor representatives, a day of hour-long interviews with typically 70 to 100 key community representatives, and two days devoted to formulating recommendations. On the final day on site, the panel makes an oral presentation of its findings to the sponsor, which can opt to hold the presentation publicly. A written report is prepared and published.
Affordability and Resilience: The Challenge of Tower Renewal in Private Rental Apartment Buildings Report
The ULI Advisory Services Panel report is based on recommendations from an Advisory Services panel of sustainability and affordable housing experts convened in February to make recommendations on how the city of Toronto can retrofit the aging buildings to reduce their carbon emissions and be resilient to climate risks while maintaining affordable rents. The panel was sponsored by the City of Toronto in partnership with the Tower Renewal Partnership and with generous support from the ULI Foundation.
The panel’s visit, which took place from February 23-28, featured site tours to some of the housing towers as well as interviews with a variety of stakeholders in the community. Initial recommendations were made at the time of the panel visit which have now been followed up in more detail in a comprehensive report.
Tower Renewal Advisory Services Panel
On Friday, February 28th, ULI Toronto, in partnership with the City of Toronto and the Tower Renewal Partnership, hosted a group of North American experts to deliver a comprehensive and actionable set of recommendations on resolving one of the city’s biggest housing and resilience challenges. The weeklong process that culminated in the February 28th event tapped into the Urban Land Institute’s global Advisory Service Program. In supporting Toronto on its tower renewal journey, seven ULI volunteers from across the US, along with three ULI staff members, travelled to Toronto to take part in four days of site visits and stakeholder interviews to develop their recommendations, which they delivered to a sold-out crowd at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
The panel consisted of seven experts:
- Jim Heid, Panel Chair, Founder, Urban Green, LLC;
- Bradford Dockser, Chief Executive Office, Co-Founder, Green Generation;
- Billy Grayson, Executive Director, Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance, Urban Land Institute;
- Purnima Kapur, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture;
- Bill Lashbrook, Senior Vice President, PNC Real Estate;
- Laura London, Associate Director, Real Estate Development, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing; and
- Elizabeth Propp, Senior Vice President, The Community Preservation Corporation
Jim Heid, the panel chair, began the presentation by noting the significant challenge around renewing the huge number of towers in the city. Making improvements to safety, comfort and sustainability while simultaneously avoiding any increase in rental costs will be no small feat. He also cited Toronto’s untenably low vacancy rate as a major obstacle to economic success within the city and the dangers of allowing the safety concerns around the buildings to simmer for too long. The fire that displaced hundreds of residents at 650 Parliament in August 2018 is, as Heid put it, only “the tip of the iceberg.” Read the full recap.
Tower Renewal Check Up: Confronting the Private Sector Rental Affordability Challenge
On December 3rd, ULI Toronto hosted a follow-up to the Advisory Services Panel, offering key highlights from the international ULI Panel and a local panel discussion. Panelists put critical focus on the current economic context facing the tower renewal agenda – and how COVID-19 exposes the need for greater public policy interest in the decaying towers that are homes to many of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
In conjunction with the program, a landmark Urban Land Institute report was released, offering critical and timely analysis more than a decade since the high-profile launch of the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal initiative, designed to upgrade the city’s over 1,000 apartment towers while maintaining affordability to over half-million Toronto residents. Significant progress is underway to revitalize publicly owned towers, but the challenges facing privately owned buildings (85% of the stock) remain steep.