Have your say about rental apartment licensing

When I was a young lad in some dim and distant past, rental apartment buildings were glamorous creatures. They were modern, had great views, lots of room and everything was included in the rent. Most had a sauna and outdoor pool. For gosh sakes they even had laundry facilities in the basement!

Then in the 1970s, the practice of subsidizing tenants in rental apartments was a cheaper alternative to building public housing. Poor people flooded apartment buildings and with rising incomes, middle-income earners began to abandon rental housing. For the most part, rental apartments became the domain of the poor and were synonymous with shabby conditions and health issues. Conditions steadily deteriorated and ten years ago, in Weston, the two towers at 1765 and 1775 Weston Road were in atrocious condition and the subject of bitter complaints. The federal government stepped in with forgivable loans and millions were spent upgrading rental buildings.

1765 Weston Road in 2012 (file).
1765 Weston Road pictured in 2012 (file).

Nowadays, renting is the only option for many people in the current real-estate market. While conditions have improved, many buildings are poorly maintained and it is felt that legislation concerning these buildings needs an overhaul.

The City of Toronto wants to hear from its citizens about licensing rental apartment buildings. According to the City,

The intended goal of the licensing framework is to build on the current Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Program by promoting best practices in building maintenance, strengthening enforcement of property standards violations, and improving tenant engagement and access to information.

The public and stakeholders will have an opportunity to:
• contribute to establishing goals and objectives for a licensing framework
• create recommendations related to current challenges and/or gaps in regulation; rules governing the operations of rental apartment buildings such as maintenance and cleaning plans; enhancement of the current building audit program, including enforcement of property standards; and improved public access to information about rental buildings, and
• submit their own recommendations for improving tenant living conditions.

The meeting for our area will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, August 24: Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Meeting Room 1/2/3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

iPads stop bullets

InsideToronto has the report on the meeting about consolidating 12 and 13 Division. There is much of interest.

It sounds like 12 will be moved to 13 division—a detail that had been lost on me. 12 is housed at Trethewey and Black Creek. 13 Division is very far away: at Allen and Eglinton. Your corespondent had thought they’d be amalgamated at some third spot.

By closing or amalgamating stations, the goal is to be even more accessible to communities, Watts said.

“Back in the day, police were on foot. Then, technology arrived, with radios and computers. We needed a hub for that,” Watts said. “We want to give every officer a hub, by providing a tablet where information can be sent so that they can get out in the community more. Police officers don’t work in buildings or cars; they work in the community.”

The doublespeak is astonishing: less is more! Farther is closer! Closed is open!

Let me give a word of advice to spin doctors everywhere: much of your business is based on the faulty idea that we can’t handle bad news; accordingly, you dissemble. And then, you wear it. That’s what we have here: Watts won’t tell us what we know: that farther is farther. Hows does that look on him?

Imagine he told the truth: “The Toronto Police budget is a billion dollars. That’s nuts. Crime is way down. We can afford to loosen up a bit and save some tax money along the way. Yes, salaries are the real killer, but Jesus, do you want to take on the police union?”

It’s honest. It’s truthful. It blames the right people: politicians and their employers.

And if I had a dollar for every time I heard that tablets are the answer: to small classrooms, shitty teaching, students who can’t write, and now, breathtakingly, to crime.  

Mr Watts, sir, tablets are never the answer.¹ You are saying—let’s be clear—that an iPad can bring cops closer to people. Have you never talked to someone while they are texting? Screens do not bring people together.

I’m not a criminologist, and I won’t pontificate. Maybe moving divisions will hardly affect policing. Maybe distributed policing is very doable. I get the feeling, though, we’re not off to a good, honest start on an issue that affects our community. I know I’m not the only one still sick from all the spinning I’ve had here.

——————–

¹I retract that: they are the answer to family road vacations.

Developers, start your engines.

Toronto’s new(ish) Police Chief Mark Saunders came to Weston / Mount Dennis on Tuesday with Mayor Tory to gauge community response to the re-alignment of police division boundaries along with the possible closure of 12 Division’s headquarters scheduled for 2018. (according to CP24)

In fact, according to the Interim Report approved at July’s Police Board meeting, 12 Division (along with several others) will disappear as it becomes amalgamated. How that process will work is rather vague.

The boundaries of 12 Division.
The current boundaries of Toronto Police’s 12 Division.

Here’s a look (below) at the affected Toronto police divisions according to CP24.

A look at the future of Toronto's police divisions.
Original map adapted by Roy Murray.

Saunders was no doubt hired with the understanding that the billion dollar police budget had to be trimmed, but like his predecessors has dragged his heels. John Tory, mayor of one of the lowest taxed cities in the country is currently asking for a 2.6% across the board budget cut to every city department so he can bring in ‘an at or below inflation’ tax increase.

It’s well known that when City budget cuts come, they disproportionally affect the poor along with areas where large numbers of poor people live. User fees go up, services get slashed and the TTC is ordered to cut back on crowded suburban routes. Mayor Tory is simply another slash and burn, subway loving member of Ford nation albeit with a better grip on P.R. (Ignore the bazillion acre park across the rail lands; it’s a distraction). The Mayor and his rich friends don’t like paying property taxes on their mansions and so the poor must bear the burden.

A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.
A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.

What’s a police chief to do? Learn from the fine example set by politicians and look for savings from people who don’t make as much of a fuss. The police station currently occupied by 12 Division is on a large piece of real estate with excellent highway connections. Wouldn’t it be a great place for a high rise apartment building or two? It even has enough room for parking. Dress the sale up as a ‘modernization of police services’ and police ‘becoming more accessible’ and you have the makings of a fine sales job.

Developers must be salivating at prospect of owning the site. Toronto City Council would smooth all hurdles out of the way and the sale of police assets would trim the Chief’s bloated budget for now while being framed as greater contact with the community. Win Win Win!

Some key words come in the Chief’s Interim Report executive summary.

In the months leading up to our final report, we will continue to look for responsible measures that can yield additional reductions, savings, and real estate returns.

and more tellingly, The full interim report says this:

Through the redesign of boundaries and facilities, we have identified up to $72 million in real estate that could be returned to the City of Toronto.

As we conduct the next phase of our work we will look for other similar opportunities.

A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise and it even has parking. Photo from Google Earth.
A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise, great road connections and it even has ample parking. Photo from Google Earth.

Given past knowledge of previous public asset sales, developers are no doubt lining up with proposals and part of the deal will have to include a crumb or two for the community.

Make no mistake, without a strong community response, 12 Division Headquarters will be sold.

It may already be too late.

Will this be a bad thing? Who knows. Tim Hortons across the street from the station will certainly suffer. (My bad. Tim’s has already moved – see comments section.)

If the goal truly is to provide more contact with the community, then it may not be the end of the world although we don’t know how that will be achieved. Several storefront locations (if implemented) might be a better alternative than a large fortress of a building, but local residents will have to fight long and hard for these and we don’t even know what exactly is planned since the report is merely ‘interim’. There’s certainly no shortage of empty storefronts in Weston / Mount Dennis. A police presence might revitalize our communities. (Where will all those cruisers go?)

It might be a good idea for Chief Saunders and the Mayor to clarify how the consolidation process will take place and what steps will be taken to ensure that community assets are not being turned over to the private sector simply to protect property owners from a long needed tax increase.

People also need to feel confident that this is not a back of the napkin job like the Mayor’s fatuous SmartTrack plans and that we aren’t blundering into a chaotic future.

Parliamentary Reform Meeting with Ahmed Hussen.

MP Ahmed Hussen (centre) and MP Mark Holland (right) discuss electoral reform with constituents.
MP Ahmed Hussen (centre) and MP Mark Holland (right) discuss electoral reform with constituents August 10, 2016.

Almost 30 residents attended yesterday’s consultation meeting at the 99 Milvan Drive office of York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Democratic Institutions, MP Mark Holland presented the various alternatives to ‘first past the post‘ elections and then the floor was thrown open to residents’ comments.

One thing is clear from the meeting; electoral reform is coming. Currently a non-stacked parliamentary committee is studying the matter. Input from ridings around the country will help determine the best alternative to the current system.

A kinder gentler Ford Nation?

Michael Ford.
Michael Ford. Photo from Twitter.

The death of former Toronto Mayor and Ward 2 councillor Rob Ford created a vacancy which was filled last night by his 22 year-old nephew, the former Michael Stirpe. Last year Mr. Ford legally switched to the more recognizable maiden name of his mother Kathy and hasn’t looked back since. He won a trustee seat in the 2014 civic election and now this.

The by-election wasn’t close; Ford was pitted against an assorted collection of mostly fringe candidates and swatted them aside with almost 70% of the vote. By-election voting numbers are usually low and this was no exception. Ten-thousand fewer people bothered to turn up compared to last time and indeed, in 2014, Rob Ford alone garnered more votes than all candidates combined in 2106.

Mr. Ford campaigning yesterday supported by former Tory MPs Julian Faction (R) and Ted Opitz (L foreground)
Mr. Ford (centre) campaigning yesterday aided by former Tory MPs Julian Fantino (R rear) and Ted Opitz (L centre). Photo from Twitter.

What can we expect from young Mr. Ford? Will he join the ranks of the Mammolitis and Di Cianos to be another right-wing vote on Council? The answer is probably yes. Mr. Ford presents as a thoughtful young man who appears to be in favour of social justice; yet, in spite of huge levels of poverty in Ward 2 that approach those of our adjacent Ward 12, Mr. Ford spouts the same idiotic mantra of lower property taxes. This is precisely the misguided policy that leads to cutting services that benefit poor people the most.

Only time will tell if Mr. Ford will learn the reality of Toronto politics and understand the need for local politicians to focus on maintaining services and providing opportunities for people to pull themselves out of poverty. Other desirable traits, sadly lacking in many councillors are to act for the betterment of the whole city, defer to good planning and help the weak.

Will he become yet another friend of the development industry and an enemy of services that help level the playing field for the less fortunate – or will he realize that keeping property taxes low only helps the rich and reduces social mobility?

There may be hope that he’ll be a thoughtful, progressive and hard-working councillor. Let’s focus on that for now.

Kodak Lands Gas Generator is dead.

Judith Hayes (centre) gets ready to host the residents' meeting.
Judith Hayes (centre) gets ready to host the residents’ meeting.

Mount Dennis Residents’ Association held an information meeting last night at the York Civic Centre. Several speakers were in attendance as well as Provincial Citizenship and Immigration Minister Laura Albanese and Toronto Councillors Frances Nunziata and Frank Di Giorgio. Also of note, in the audience was a small contingent of attentive young people from the For Youth Initiative.

The meeting was held to discuss the 18MW natural gas generator proposed by Metrolinx to be used in power outages on the new Eglinton Crosstown Line as well as a cheaper source of energy during peak periods.

For the first part of the meeting, several speakers discussed greener methods of power generation and conservation.

Once the floor was opened to residents’ questions, the most pertinent comment came in response MDCA’s Rick Ciccarelli. He asked the City’s Fernando Carou (Community Energy Planning) for confirmation that Metrolinx has withdrawn its site plan application for a gas generator on the Kodak Lands. He then asked what is now being planned. Carou replied that the application has indeed been withdrawn and that Metrolinx and Toronto Hydro are currently working on more environmentally acceptable ways of providing back-up power.

According to the politicians present at the meeting, a further announcement will be forthcoming in about a month and that residents will be consulted on any further proposals.

Interestingly, one of the speakers, Jason Rioux, Vice President of NRSTOR, confirmed that battery storage is capable of providing emergency power and that instead of using one site, several smaller battery modules could be installed along the crosstown line. This would provide more efficiency during a power outage and would eliminate the need for a large building on the Kodak lands site. The batteries would be charged at night with cheap electricity while trains weren’t running.

For now, residents can breathe a sigh of relief. The generator is off the table. Well done to all involved who applied political pressure to ensure this option was eliminated and to the politicians who responded to the people’s wishes. It remains to be seen what Metrolinx will come up with next but according to the politicians present, people will be consulted on any new proposals. A further announcement will be forthcoming in about a month.

Province nixes texting ban for street walkers.

Councillor Frances Nunziata’s questionable motion (see Adam’s article) to request a change to the Highway Traffic Act was quickly given the bum’s rush by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. Officials at the Ontario Government must find such motions trying (but probably not as trying as the City’s transportation flip-flops over the past few years). Minister Del Duca correctly pointed out that City Council has the power to pass by-laws; something the good councillor may have overlooked in the zeal to take the issue to a higher level.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.08.42 PM
From radio times.com

Ms Nunziata’s motion passed by a startling 26 votes to 15 and one can only surmise that during the vote, many councillors were texting and weren’t paying close attention. Council motions and votes these days are as unpredictable and logical as tossing a coin; although citizens can be assured that whenever a council motion is passed, it may well:

  • fly in the face of common sense,
  • appease a vested interest and
  • demonstrate the bizarre thinking powers of its proponents

I believe a proposal to license pedestrians may be coming up soon. Stay tuned.