Shelter Improvements, Short-term Rentals, and Budget 2018
As 2017 draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the many high points of this past year and all the people who contributed to our collective accomplishments. From beautiful public art projects to donations of needed park infrastructure; neighbourhood activism and community welcome events to the sharing of environmental consciousness; public celebrations and street parties, and so much more – thank you for continuing to be an inquisitive, thoughtful, and engaged community.
Looking to 2018, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the epicentre of community engagement, the Wychwood Barns! To commemorate the occasion, The Wychwood Barns Community Association and Artscape are hosting the first-ever 512 Talent Show! Click here to find out how you can get involved and showcase your talent.
This morning I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the new subway line, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE). The line officially opens on Sunday, December 17, but you can sneak a peek at the new stations tomorrow!
We have just received the news that the Ontario Municipal Board has approved the new ward boundaries, dismissing all appeals. This means that the new 47-ward map will be in effect for the October 2018 election. I will be sure to update you with more information as it becomes available.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, City Budget season is in full swing. Council passed the rate-supported budget last week, which includes the fee levels for Toronto Water, Solid Waste collection, and Toronto Parking Authority. For 2018, garbage collection rates for single-family homes will rise with inflation (about 1.3%). Water rates are increasing by 5 per cent, or an average of $47 per household. The increase is directly related to the City’s efforts to renew and repair crucial water infrastructure. You can click to read more about what’s included in the rate budget.
The tax-supported budget process launched on November 30, marking the start of a busy season of debate. This year, like last year, the City Manager’s Office presented a budget that excluded a long list of “new and enhanced” programming that has already been approved through council and committee meetings. This means that around $100 million worth of important initiatives that will support poverty reduction efforts, improve service standards, fight climate change, and address systemic inequities, risk not being funded.
I will be championing the inclusion of a number of key items, especially those related to the Poverty Reduction Strategy (which includes the Fair Pass program and the Child Care Growth Strategy), the 2-hour transfer for PRESTO, funds to address TTC overcrowding, and TransformTO, which focuses on environmental projects dealing with climate change. For more information on what’s included in the Tax- Supported Capital and Operating Budget, check out the City’s webpage for useful reports, videos, and infographics. For information on advocacy efforts related to anti-poverty work, visit www.torontocandobetter.ca (not a City-affiliated link). Members of the public will be able to make deputations at Budget Sub-committee meetings on January 8, 9, and 10.
At last week’s City Council meeting, we approved landmark decisions around the shelter system for homeless people as well as short-term rentals. In recognition of a growing crisis of shelter space, I brought forward a comprehensive motion to increase shelter capacity with about 1000 new winter respite spaces and shelter beds, and strategies to move people into supportive housing. This action represents a significant move towards reducing shelter occupancy. While respite centres are not preferred over shelter beds, we can get them going in a month or so. They are there as a bridge while we build 3 additional 100-person shelters, which take 12 to 18 months to construct, staff, and open.
I am proud that we were able to achieve consensus around the compassionate decision to prioritize large-scale, immediate upgrades to our shelters. While we all recognize that shelters are not the answer, they are a safety net that holds people’s lives together while better affordable and supportive housing options are developed.
This leads me to the decision on regulations for short-term housing, what most people know best as Airbnb. The regulations, which will come into effect on June 1, 2018, strike a delicate balance between recognizing the need for more long-term housing availability on one hand, and ensuring strong, competitive economic growth on the other. Affordable housing is in a dire condition, and it is so important that we as a City put access to permanent housing at the fore of our decision-making process. The regulations allow homeowners to rent out all or a portion of their own living space for a maximum of 180 days per year for “short-term” occupants (fewer than 28 days). Secondary suites, most often basement apartments, are banned from becoming short-term rental units as long as they are able to be rented legally as long-term rentals. These rules ensure that as many units as possible continue to be on the housing market, while still allowing homeowners to bring in extra income over the course of the year by sharing their home.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, and Season’s Greetings to all! Alongside my family and staff, I wish you and your family much joy and warm connections over the holiday season. May the New Year be abundant with health, peace, and happiness!
Councillor Joe Mihevc
Ward 21, St. Paul’s West