First the owners of Satin Finish proposed building 99 townhomes on their property at 8 Oak Street that runs along Knob Hill Drive. Then they ran into some opposition, had a re-think and came back with plans to build 509 units. An effort was made to save the original brick building that fronts the site on Oak but that has come to nothing. Council recently voted to allow demolition of the non-residential brick building, subject to a ‘beautification agreement’. Nobody yet knows what this means as it is subject to negotiations between the owners and council. It’s part of the Section 37 nonsense Ontario requires the city to use instead of council being able to direct developers in what they can and should do. Contrary to the site’s current industrial use zoning, the owners want the site to become an apartment and townhome development. Across the street is a set of townhomes that went through a similar process back in 2004. The OMB ruled in favour of the developer and the zoning was changed to residential.
John Tory and his council allies have a huge revenue shortfall. Instead of raising the lowest property taxes in all of Ontario, they are hoping to find efficiencies (a.k.a. gravy) elsewhere.
Apparently one tactic is keeping staff low at city hall. If heritage buildings can’t be designated thanks to staff shortages, developers can take advantage of the delay and demolish priceless properties. “We’re understaffed”, is the plea from the Planning Department. Unscrupulous developers don’t like to preserve heritage buildings. Therefore one can only assume that the Planning Department is woefully short of staff by design. Consider this recent Tweet to Councillor Joe Cressy from Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat:
As the Toronto Star points out, it’s harder to chop down a tree than demolish a 110 year-old Beaux Arts heritage building.
Maybe this particular building wasn’t worthy of protection but now we’ll never know.
Incidentally, Josh Matlow is a city councillor who proactively seeks out heritage buildings in his corner of Toronto. He has listed and mapped significant properties in Ward 22. Perhaps his example should be emulated by all councillors and maybe the city should make the process less cumbersome if we are to retain any of our rapidly disappearing heritage.
In the pantheon of preposterous policy proposals, this pips the pack to the post. Frances Nunziata is floating the idea—I kid you not—of a raffle to close the city’s budget gap.
Speaking to the Sun, Nunziata suggested a city lottery.
The mind reels.
There are a few reasons why this just might not work. First, the province has a monopoly on lotteries, so Toronto would be cannibalizing Ontario’s finances. Every cent spent on Toronto tickets would come out of Ontario’s cash.
Perhaps Toronto’s tickets would generate new income. If so, and if the province agreed (these are huge ifs), the tickets would draw money disproportionately from the poor and the uneducated; both communities spend a larger share of their income on lottery tickets.
Nunziata says that New York City has a lottery, and we could too. But if there is a Big Apple ticket, your correspondent cannot find it. New York State does, however, have many. There may be good reasons for this; lotteries require administrators. Small lotteries would have to give a larger share away. Why a fiscal conservative like Nunziata would like another government department remains an unanswered.
Surely we can do better.
Let me propose an alternative: tax the lucky. I get several real-estate pamphlets in my mailbox daily, encouraging me to sell. I bought my house 10 years ago, for about half of what I might get now.
About 100,000 homes will be sold this year in Toronto, and the city has an annual cash crisis of about $100 million. Raising the land transfer tax from 2.0% to 2.2% would raise about $200 million, but cost each home seller only $2000. Charging foreign buyers a 15% tax could raise much more—about $750 million would be up for grabs.
These taxes would also cut down on my junk mail dramatically.
Etobicoke York Council meets about once a month to deal with local issues. Local councillors discuss matters of local concern and adopt, defer or reject motions which are sent to the full council for adoption and enactment. Today’s decisions that may be of interest to our readers are:
Toronto Building recommends that the City Council give consideration to the demolition application for 8 Oak Street and decide to:
Approve the application to demolish the two storey industrial building without entering into a beautification agreement with the City and the appropriate City officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to give effect thereto.
Update: The minutes don’t give details of the amendment yet, however, InsideToronto says that Councillor Nunziata asked for a heritage report on the building that will be delivered at the April EYC meeting.
The long-delayed York Recreation Centre at Black Creek and Eglinton has been—you guessed it—delayed again.
The centre’s opening had been scheduled for 2o14-15, June 2016, and then later this month. Registration had begun, and programs were scheduled. Classes have now been cancelled, and will restart (one hopes) in March. Frances Nunziata’s email circular says that drop-ins will begin before that.
Nunziata also says “I will be putting forward a motion requesting that the contract for the project is reviewed and that responsible parties be held accountable for the two years of delay in getting this centre completed.”
Nobody has ever accused Frances Nunziata of lacking guts. Yesterday she took a principled–and unpopular–position, and voted in favour of road tolls.
Your correspondent, being rational, is pro-toll (and anti-car). Tolls are a tax on congestion and pollution. Further, at least some of their burden will fall on people not from the 416. We bear the costs of commuters driving here; I feel quite entitled to discourage them.
The other options to close a funding gap were a 10% increase in property taxes or selling off Toronto Hydro.
Tolls are divisive: the NDP, bizarrely, is against them, preferring unnamed “better funding options”. The Conservatives, predictably, oppose them, saying “families, commuters, everyone is really feeling the pinch… life is just becoming harder and more unaffordable”–even though this is simply not true: the inflation rate was a virtually undetectable 1.1 percent last year.
An interesting little charade was taking place yesterday in Weston. The Mayor and Councillor Nunziata were here to extol the virtues of keeping property taxes low. Never mind that Toronto’s budget is facing a $516 million shortfall next year and that Council has a backlog of $33 billion in capital projects with possibly $11 billion still to be added for transportation. Never mind that in our city, the average detached home owner occupies a $1.66 million home.
To support the Mayor and Councillor’s viewpoint, a press conference was arranged in front of Weston resident Dave Bennett’s lovely home where Dave was quoted as saying that his property tax bill is ‘one of the biggest bills he gets’. Tory chimed in to state that property taxes were good for things like services but shouldn’t go towards capital expenditures (presumably like his completely useless $3 billion one-stop subway in Scarborough that we’re already paying for via a 0.5% property tax levy).
This is the mayor, aided and abetted by our own councillor who would rather cut city services across the board by 2.6% than impose a meaningful property tax increase. When services are cut, it’s the poor who suffer the most. TTC cuts, library cuts, parks cuts, police cuts, social program cuts and public housing budget cuts affect the poor disproportionally. Also look for user fees to be increased in the new year. In the meantime, those of us who own a home, from the most humble of condos in Rexdale to palatial mansions in Rosedale are spared an above-inflation increase in the lowest property taxes in the Province. Coming soon, (and this apparently is a good thing) tolls will be imposed on drivers using the Don Valley and Gardiner routes into town but instead of boosting the TTC budget in anticipation of higher passenger loads, a 2.6% budget reduction will ensure that fares are higher, routes are cut and buses and subways are crowded and even more uncomfortable.
Interestingly, York South Weston’s Ward 11 residents paid only $35 million in property tax last year compared to Toronto Centre-Rosedale whose residents paid $151 million. Most of Weston’s residents would dearly love to be in the fortunate position of directly paying property taxes* and contributing to the City’s budget but unfortunately they can’t afford to buy a home. User fees and transit costs will rise and programs designed to help people better themselves and eventually move onto the property ladder are being gutted by this idiotic strategy.
All this so that John Tory can say he didn’t raise property taxes above inflation and be re-elected in 2018.
Here’s an article and video of yesterday’s event from CP24.
*A whole other article; renters indirectly pay triple the rate that homeowners pay.
Frances Nunziata voted against increasing the number of Toronto wards in City Council today. She, and the mayor, were on the losing side, however, and there will soon be three more wards, raising the total to 47. The boundaries of Ward 11, however, will not be affected.
Depending on who you ask, the new wards are either a power grab for downtown, or reflect increasing density. Our ward was unaffected because we had at last count only 62,000 people.