NOW Magazine used the 22 John St rental building to highlight how a change in rental laws has hurt renters: new buildings aren’t covered by rent control.
“We now have two classes of tenants in Ontario: those who live in units built pre-November 2018 that have rent control measures and those who live in units built after where the landlords can raise the rents however much they want ever year,” says Toronto Centre MPP Suze Morrison, the NDP’s housing critic. “22 John is one of the first buildings where we saw this loophole being utilized.”
The new York South–Weston Tenant Union is asking the owners of 22 John to hold their rent increases to 2.2%, and they’ve signed up many community groups in support, in addition to Frances Nunziata and Faisal Hassan.
Late last year, the owners of 22 John wanted to raise rents on month-to-month tenants by as much as 25%. Tenants who signed yearly leases were asked to bear a smaller increase: about 6%. The owners later backed down on the largest increases.
The Tenant Union says that the building was “subsidized through millions of dollars in public investments”. This isn’t quite what it seems. The below-market units were subsidized, but there are also also at-market rentals built with the developer’s own money. These rentals received no subsidies, and the developers—rightly or wrongly—are entitled by law to increase those rents.
In the press release, Chiara Padovani said
“This is what York South-Weston is all about. When our neighbours are struggling, we step up and help each other out. Stable housing is key to building a healthy community, and we’re all part of this community.”
At the Community Meeting about the proposal for the development at the Greenland Farms site (Weston and Little Ave.), the developer’s agent tried to justify the immense building on the basis of the province’s plans to increase development around ‘Major Transit Stations’. Weston GO station (as long as we keep our GO trains) is such a Major Transit Station. The new provincial plans (now called ‘A Place to Grow’) require a planned density of 150 persons and jobs per hectare (1/100 of a square kilometre) around GO Stations. From the city of Toronto, this definition:
So, what does this mean for Weston? First, the 500 metre radius looks like this.
The Greenland Farms development will clearly be within that circle which extends north to almost King, south to part of Sykes, east along Lawrence to Pine, and west to just into Etobicoke.
But the real question is, how much density do we need to achieve the provincial plan? Do we really need to permit several 29 and 36 storey towers?
The answer can be found in the 2016 Census. Here is a map of the west part of Toronto with densities in different colours – dark blue being the densest.
The Census data is in persons per square kilometre. Weston is already the densest part of the west end, with the possible exception of part of Dixon Road. And the densities of the areas closest to the proposed development are already substantially more than 150 persons per hectare, not counting any jobs which may exist.
By small census areas, here are the actual densities.
35204426 – West side of Weston Road, Little to St. Phillips – Density 153.3 persons per hectare
35204415 – East side of Weston Road, King to John to tracks – Density 181.73 persons per hectare
35204414 – North side of Lawrence to John St, Little to tracks – Density 177.57 persons per hectare
35204413 – South side of Lawrence, Hickory Tree to Weston Rd. – Density 292.12 persons per hectare
35204412 – South side of Lawrence, Weston to Pine and south to Denison – Density 69.19 persons per hectare
35204411 – West side of Weston Rd., Bellevue to Wright – Density 133.72 persons per hectare.
The 2016 census was before the building at 22 John was occupied. So the density is already greater. And the count does not include jobs, which takes the count even higher.
Weston is already plenty dense enough. Developers cannot point to the provincial growth plan and claim a right to make it denser. Even the legally allowed 8 storey maximum for development on Weston Road would significantly increase the density.
The city can and should say no to any more monstrous buildings in Weston. And defend such decision at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (successor to the OMB) should the developers appeal. Developers who thought we’d be an easy mark can think again.
On Thursday November 28, at Weston Collegiate Institute, a meeting will be held to assess public reaction to a huge development proposed for Weston’s old ‘Main Street’.
There’s no doubt development is needed in Weston. The question is what form should it take? Do we want the familiar streetscape of the current architecture (Bloor West Village style), something moderately larger or are people ok with the gargantuan development being proposed. Once a pattern of new development along Weston Road is established, it will set the trend. Until recently, the plan for Weston was for something moderate that would fit into the streetscape.
Now there is no mention of Weston in Toronto’s official Plan and it seems strange that this has happened without community input.
The following general objectives have been established for the Weston area.
Weston will be recognized as a distinct and significant community within the City of Toronto, as a community rooted in its history. Weston has experienced considerable change in land use, employment, retail activity and residential character and will continue to experience these changes in the future. The challenge is to recapture Weston’s unique character of the past within a greatly changed urban area and reality. These guidelines will help manage any future change within Weston in order to achieve the following goals:
The revitalization of retail and community activity along Weston Road as the strong and attractive heart of Weston
The maintenance of the quality of life in the neighbourhoods
The introduction of new residential development along the Weston Road corridor
The generation of new employment opportunities on former industrial lands
The enhancement of the Humber Valley as an environmental and recreational asset for the city.
…All buildings located in Weston Village will be limited to a maximum height of 24 metres with the following exception:
– buildings fronting onto Weston Road and/or John Street will be limited to a maximum height of 3 storeys or 9 metres for all portions of the buildings located within 6 metres of the street line. Any additional height above the third storey will be set back a minimum of 3 metres from the face of the base building to a maximum height of 8 storeys (24 metres)
Why is 8 stories no longer the limit? Surely Councillor Nunziata should have kept the community informed of this change, official or not. To go from 8 to 29 stories is a huge increase.
There seems to be an effort from supporters of this project to put their thumb on the scale – one person alone commented 9 times on the previous article. The attitude from some supporters seems to be, “Shut up and be grateful NIMBY”.
There’s nothing wrong with development provided it enriches the community – not just the developer. This project is way too large and will do nothing for the community except add traffic, shadow and sewage issues.
It’s not as if we haven’t learned this lesson before. When the Weston Hub was proposed, it was going to be a shining beacon and provide all things to all people, including an indoor / outdoor farmers market and community centre. Now it looks as if there won’t even be room for the Farmers Market when traders use the designated space next May.
Questions that should concern every Weston resident:
Do we want to place these huge high rises in the heart of Weston?
Why is this development not in keeping with the scale of the area.
Why has the project doubled in size since the last public consultation?
If this project is approved, where will the considerable Section 37 monies be spent? (Let’s hope no more Nychtophilias)
Why are there so few parking spaces allocated? (There are 7 above ground parking spaces (for visitors) and 174 below ground for a building that will house more than a thousand people. Weston is not downtown Toronto.)
If a supermarket opens on the second floor, where will people park and how will they carry groceries to their cars?
Where are the shadow studies for the winter months?
Who are the people behind Weston Asset Management?
Why does Weston Asset Management have no web presence?
What is Councillor Nunziata’s position on this development?
Read more about the project here. The developer’s application materials can be found here.
If you cannot attend the meeting, and would like to provide input, Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you:
by email: [email protected] by Phone: (416) 394-5683 by letter: City, Planner, Etobicoke York District, 2, Civic Centre Court, Floor 3, Toronto ON, M9C 5A3.
Planning Application Consultation: Date: November 28, 2019 Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm Location: Weston Collegiate Institute; 100 Pine Street.
The new rental building at 22 John was in the news last week for asking tenants to pay as much as 21.6% more than last year—an increase they’ve since backed down on.
A spokesperson told The Star that tenants can reduce the rent increase by signing a year-long lease instead of moving to a month-to-month agreement when their agreements come up for renewal. The increase could still be as much as 10%, however.
Chiara Padovani, a local advocate, said today on Twitter:
Padovani, who was a rival for the councillor’s seat, has started a petition calling for rent control province wide.
It’s a bit more complicated than that.
Rockport did not receive city tax money to build for-profit rentals. They received waivers and $7 million in provincial and federal money—but it was to build below-market apartments and public spaces. 22 John is a mixed-use building, with a jumble of market and subsidized spaces.
Rockport only received help to build the below-market spaces. They built the for-profit spaces with their own money. Those rents are—rightly or wrongly—theirs alone to set.
Frances Nunziata, rightly, voted against applying rent control on buildings just like 22 John: buildings in which mixed incomes live together. It was perfectly reasonable to do that; after all, mixed-income buildings are good and should be encouraged.