Foreign money pushing up house prices.

The logic-defying and alarming increases in Toronto’s housing prices have affected us in Weston to some extent. The boom is largely taking place outside our borders. While we still live in an affordable area, interestingly the net effect of the current market is lower property taxes for us. This is because higher assessments in other parts of the city mean that those residents are taking a larger share of the total assessment. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that housing prices (and rents) are rising at an unsustainable rate. What are we being told about the rise in housing prices? The big lie is that it’s simply a lack of supply and that more housing is needed. Based on this lie, there are proposals to eat into Toronto’s Green Belt and put more housing there.

A new report issued this week from the Ryerson’s City Building Institute tackles the housing shortage theory and disproves it. While there is enough housing for residents, the seeming shortage is likely caused by money looking for a safe haven in Canada. According to the report, it’s hard to trace foreign money that’s causing the boom but unless we do something about money flooding our city (such as a foreign buyers’ tax or a progressive property surtax), a lot of (especially) young people will be putting themselves at risk, saddled with an impossible debt. This could trigger a financial crisis, once the bubble inevitably bursts causing even more turmoil.

Over to you Province of Ontario.

Smitherman to bid for council in 2018

George Smitherman. From ctvnews.ca

Weston native born politician, George Smitherman has announced he will run for council in next year’s civic election. While he will not run in York South-Weston, he plans to take a shot at one of the three new wards created after a boundary review and council vote last November. The condo boom of the past few years, has seen population growth in the downtown core and Smitherman hopes to end up with a home and seat there.

While a progressive councillor for Ward 11 might have been a big change from the current incumbent, all is not lost. Many vital decisions at council have been won or lost by only a few votes. Mayor John Tory opposed adding three extra wards. Why?  Possibly because the new wards are downtown and could add three progressive voices and votes which might improve the tone and dare I say humanity of Council decisions. As an added bonus, Smitherman has close ties with the Liberal Party of Canada along with Immigration Minister and York South Weston MP Ahmed Hussen so no doubt there will be a strong link to the federal government.

Here begins the speculation that the long term plan is to knock John Tory off his mayoral perch in 2022.

Stay tuned; it should be an interesting ride.

Work on Kodak lands continues this year.

An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.

The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.

Incidentally, our mayor and councillor seem bound and determined to push forward with the Scarborough folly and have rejected a fully-funded seven station LRT. These are the people who successfully voted against basing transit decisions on data.  They didn’t want ranked balloting either. I wonder why.

Speed limits lowering around Weston / Mount Dennis

We get outraged whenever a murder takes place in our city, yet people driving cars kill a similar number of Torontonians each year. Part of the problem is that our city has been designed to favour the automobile. Most cities in Europe have extensive traffic-free zones where pedestrians can walk without worrying about traffic.

A quiet Sunday afternoon in the Spanish city of Cartagena. Traffic free streets like this are common in Europe. Incidentally (and completely off topic), notice the lack of overhead wiring and also the use of mid-rise apartment buildings to achieve density.

Cars have been heavily redesigned over the years to protect the occupants in the case of a collision. Nothing is on the outside to help an unfortunate pedestrian or cyclist who is struck by a car.

The old expression goes, “Speed kills”. Logic tells us that the faster a car goes, the greater the impact in a collision. What most of us don’t realize is that thanks to the laws of physics, a car travelling at 6o km/h is almost twice as likely to kill a pedestrian or cyclist as one going at 50 km/h.

Pedestrian and cyclist risks when hit by a car. Data from aaafoundation.org

With greater speed, longer reaction times are needed and braking distance increases.

This Australian video illustrates the dangers of low level speeding.

As part of Vision Zero, a city-wide push to target the huge number of deaths and injuries on Toronto streets, some speed limits across the city are about to be lowered. The ones in our immediate vicinity are:

  • Dixon Road from Highway 427 to Royal York Road – Reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h
  • Rogers Road from Weston Road to Old Weston Road – Reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h

In addition, pedestrian crossing times will be lengthened at certain intersections.

All of us are vulnerable pedestrians; let’s think that way when we’re driving.

City recommends against fence on MacDonald

City staff are again recommending against closing the laneway between Lawrence and Macdonald—an issue that has been ongoing for several months.

The laneway in question
The laneway in question

Some residents complained that it draws “illegal and antisocial behaviours”.

As the report says, closing the laneway would provide “the abutting landowners with the benefits of a private lane, while being maintained by the City. The disadvantages of closing the lane include the removal of an efficient transportation link for a significant number of pedestrians between Lawrence Avenue West and MacDonald Avenue, including the local high school”.

The issue should be decided at the October 13 Etobicoke York Community Council. It will then go before City Hall.

 

Mount Dennis Library opens Sundays

As part of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mount Dennis Library along with these others, has been granted additional funding to allow it to be open between 1 and 5 p.m. from now until June. The idea is to be open on Sundays during the school year to support students who may otherwise have nowhere to study or access a computer.

Unfortunately, Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau, Carnegie-built library will remain firmly shuttered on Sundays. At one time it was common for all library branches to be open on Sundays. The rot started with former Mayor, David Miller in 2007 when he needed to find some money in a budget crunch. Libraries have suffered ever since and workers treated more and more shabbily as the video below explains:

Readers may remember with a nostalgic fondness the random brain farts of former Councillor Doug Ford who once falsely alleged that there were more library branches in his ward (2) than Tim Hortons Coffee shops. Apparently that would have been a bad thing.

But meanwhile (emphasis on mean), Mayor John Tory still wants Toronto Public Libraries to cough up a 2.6% reduction in spending. Like the Ford boys, Tory believes the right-wing mantra that there is lots of waste in the system and that hard working taxpayers must be protected from increases. Instead, despite his protestations that services to the poor will be untouched, Tory will be passing the buck to the poor through increased fees, reduced service levels and a weaker library system. It’s not as if Toronto residents pay high taxes in comparison to their neighbouring citizens.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-5-43
Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s property taxes are considerably lower than those of other municipalities. The result is great for the wealthy but because of a services squeeze, not so much for people trying to escape poverty.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-5-44
Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s biggest expense is the Police Service and Board whose spending has steadfastly resisted all efforts to be reined in. The Toronto Public Library system is well down on the list.

Summer sights along Weston Road…

It’s the height of summer and some things are happening yet some things stay the same.

Cruickshank Ford is still open but its main building is being demolished to make way for a more updated showroom. Sales now take place in a trailer on the site and service is still in the old location for now.
Cruickshank Ford is still open for business but its main building is being demolished to make way for a more modern showroom. Sales now take place in a trailer on the site.
The temporary sales office.
Cruickshank Ford’s temporary sales office. Service is still in the old location for now.
Weston Towns are nearing completion.
Weston Towns: This development quickly sold out with prices starting at $399,000. They are being built on the former Beer Store site and some will be occupied this year. These at the rear are the most complete and will be the first to be occupied.
Later phases of the townhomes closer to Weston Road.
Weston Towns: Later phases of the townhomes closer to Weston Road. According to the builder, First Avenue Properties, the first 16 owners will be moving in on November 17 this year.
Not much is happening at the future Weston Hub apart from some rehabilitation of the parking garage that will provide the parking for residents of the 30 storey rental that will be placed on the old Farmers Market site.
Weston Hub: Not much seems to be happening at the future Weston Hub apart from some rehabilitation of the parking facility that will provide parking for residents of the 30 storey rental soon to be placed on the old Farmers Market site.
Looking over the Hub site towards John Street.
Weston Hub: Looking over the Hub site towards John Street.
The beautiful flower display by Weston's war memorial contrasts nicely with James Gove's stonework.
Little Avenue: The beautiful flower display along Little Avenue by Weston’s Cenotaph contrasts nicely with James Gove’s famous stonework.