401 Richmond - protecting our City's arts and culture
401 Richmond is a vital part of Toronto. It is at the heart of the local community and a hub for artists, creators, educators, and entrepreneurs from across the city. Due to the building's unique operating model, my office has been working with 401 Richmond over the past two years, to ensure that 401 Richmond continues to be viable in the face of various challenges.
The recent re-assessment of 401 Richmond by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is a serious and urgent new challenge. MPAC was established by the Province to assess property values and does this according to legislation and regulations set out by the Government of Ontario. Each property is re-assessed every four years and MPAC has set the 2017 value at 119.5% higher than four years ago.
I sent a letter to MPAC today, urging reconsideration of the re-assessment, with supporting materials from various departments at the City. Across divisions, there is a strong commitment to find a solution to fix this problem. To read my letter, click here.
A fundamental problem with this system is that MPAC assesses the value of properties using the "highest and best use" method, which means that they consider the most lucrative possible use for the land, such as condo tower development or Class A commercial office space. We have seen over time that this system discourages property owners from preserving heritage buildings or leasing space to unconventional tenants.
In December 2015, the City of Toronto proactively made a formal request to the Government of Ontario to change the property assessment rules for heritage properties like 401 Richmond to reflect their actual current use rather than "highest and best use." So far, the Province has not made any changes.
Many of the tenants at 401 Richmond cannot wait for the province to fix this broken system. I am exploring every potential option at the municipal level that might be a temporary solution or minimize the negative effects. We're working on this right now as an urgent priority, in collaboration with Urbanspace, and we hope to have more to share soon.
We would deeply appreciate your support in advocating for a permanent and effective change to the Province's assessment rules so that 401 Richmond, and other buildings and incubator spaces like it, can have reasonable, predictable tax assessments. Contact your local MPP, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, to urge them to change assessment rules for incubators like 401 Richmond.