The Cressy Courier February 18 - Building New Affordable and Supportive Housing, Marine Use Strategy Updates, and More
As we wrap-up the 2020 budget process, we need to ask ourselves, are we building a fair and supportive city?
When we invest in the city, everyone wins. It means better public transit, better bike infrastructure, and better roads. It means better and more parks and community centres, active libraries and vibrant communities. And it means that the most vulnerable members of our community have access to the supports they need.
The good news is that in this year’s budget, we have finally seen an increase in property taxes - an additional eight per cent over the next six years to fund $6.6 billion in transit and housing. But this is just a start, and we have a long way to go.
The cracks in our city have continued to grow, and decades of cuts and underfunding can't be solved overnight. I will continue to push for more measures to increase the City’s revenue, and to put those funds towards addressing the housing crisis, and investing in affordable and supportive housing.
Toronto is a great city, there's no question about that. But, in order to build a city for the future, we're going to need to invest again – in people, services, and infrastructure. Let's get it done, together.
Staying Informed about Coronavirus
The risk of coronavirus for Torontonians remains low. Toronto Public Health (TPH) continues to actively monitor the situation and is coordinating closely with provincial and federal health agencies, local hospitals, and other partners. TPH has a strong and experienced communicable disease surveillance program, and is well prepared to ensure the health of Toronto residents. It is a regular part of their everyday work to prepare for and respond to the appearance of new communicable diseases in our city, like this virus. If a new case of the virus appears in Toronto, TPH will notify the public without delay.
TPH is recommending that you take the normal steps to reduce the risk of transmitting the flu and other common respiratory illnesses, which are already prevalent in Toronto at this time of year:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze,
- If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm,
- Stay at home if you are ill, and
- Get your yearly flu vaccine, available from clinics and pharmacies.
As Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, I have full confidence in our Medical Officer of Health and the Toronto Public Health team and will continue to work closely with them to ensure the public remains protected and informed.
In reaction to coronavirus in the news, we have unfortunately also been made aware of misinformation spreading and a rise in xenophobia and discrimination towards Chinese Canadians. We cannot allow this to continue. As a city we must stand against all forms of discrimination, and work together to stop the spread of misinformation.
Again, the risk of contracting the virus in Toronto remains low, and Toronto Public Health continues to work closely with provincial and national health agencies to monitor the situation.
Information and updates about coronavirus are always available at toronto.ca/coronavirus.
A Pathway Out of Homelessness - Building New Supportive Housing
Homelessness is a crisis in our city, and supportive housing is a crucial component in addressing it. We must act immediately and begin building supportive housing now if we are ever going to truly end homelessness.
For years, we have called for a plan to reach our Council-approved target of creating 18,000 new supportive housing units over the next 10 years. Last week, a City staff report went to the Planning and Housing Committee with a roadmap for our City to take the lead in creating new supportive housing, beginning this year, and every year for the next decade.
Last November, I brought a motion to City Council requesting that City Staff include one third of the capital funds required to meet the Council-approved target of building 1,800 new supportive housing units a year for the next 10 years, in the 2020 budget.
We need every level of government to commit to investing in supportive housing, as a critical component of addressing homelessness. City Council has repeatedly called for all levels of government to commit to reaching our goal of 18,000 new supportive housing units over the next 10 years.
We need investment from the provincial and federal governments. But, we can no longer wait. The City must take action.
We can end homelessness in Toronto. There are many actions we must take, and supportive housing is but one part of the large housing spectrum in need of investment, including social housing and rent-geared-to-income supports. But, housing is the answer and we must act now.
Building New Affordable Housing in CityPlace
As the crisis of homelessness and housing affordability continues in Toronto, building new affordable housing has rightly become one of our City's top priorities. A wide spectrum of urgent initiatives is needed to address the many dimensions of the crisis, which is intertwined with poverty and inequality, including adequate emergency shelter capacity, supportive housing, deeply affordable housing geared to income, and purpose-built market rental housing.
Despite the reality that the City of Toronto cannot completely solve the crisis alone, without more support from our government partners, we must do everything possible with the resources at hand. An important tool available to us today is leveraging City-owned parcels of land for new affordable housing construction.
Block 36 North is the last block of undeveloped land in CityPlace, located immediately north of the Fort York library branch. It is owned by the City of Toronto and earmarked for new affordable rental housing. I have been working to have this affordable housing built for a number or years and, with City staff, even secured City Council approval for construction in 2016. Unfortunately, the project ultimately did not advance to construction.
More recently, the Province of Ontario's public transit agency Metrolinx expressed interest in securing – through licence or expropriation – access to the property to facilitate planned construction in the adjacent rail corridor. I have been advised that, as a result of negotiations between the City's Transit Expansion Office and Metrolinx, the Block 36 North property is no longer under consideration by Metrolinx. This provides the City with enough certainty to re-start the planning process to build new affordable rental housing on the property.
It is time to get moving on building new affordable rental housing in CityPlace. My motion requesting that City Council direct City staff to re-initiate this project and urgently report back with recommendations to build new affordable rental housing at Block 36 North in CityPlace, was approved at the Planning and Housing Committee this week.
Calling on Short-term Rental Platforms to Comply with City Regulations
Earlier this month, in response to a horrific shooting incident that occurred in CityPlace at 85 Queens Wharf Road, AirBnb announced that they are changing their policy to restrict those under 25 years of age from renting entire homes or units. This response is not good enough. If AirBnb was serious about improving housing affordability and community safety, they would immediately de-list the 7,000 homes on their platform that don’t comply with the City of Toronto’s regulations.
The increasing proliferation of "ghost hotels" in many buildings in our communities – condo units purchased by investors and companies to operate as year-round permanent short-term rentals – creates issues of safety and liveability for the long-term residents who are trying to live their lives and raise families here. Too many operate in a manner that is disruptive and potentially dangerous to neighbours.
These kinds of short-term rentals also remove a large number of condo units from the housing market, increasing prices and rents for everyone else in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. With over 181,000 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing, and a rental vacancy rate of only 1%, the affordable housing crisis is already at a critical point. In addition, some short-term rentals, like the one at the centre of the recent violence, operate in a manner that is extremely disruptive for long-term residential neighbours. It is a serious threat to not only the liveability of our vertical downtown communities but, as this incident has proven, can impact the level of safety and security in the neighbourhood.
I voted in support of the regulations for short-term rentals that City Council approved almost two years ago but, unfortunately, the regulations have been held up by a lengthy appeals process at the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) – a provincial body that is outside of the City's jurisdiction.
The City maintains a website that is updated as news of the LPAT appeal and the implementation of our short-term rental regulations becomes available.
While we wait for the completion of this legal process, I will continue to call on AirBnb and other operators to immediately comply with the City’s rules, including de-listing all non-primary residence units, i.e. the ghost hotels. Absolutely nothing is stopping AirBnb from voluntarily doing this today. They can and should.
Letter to Enbridge: Concerns Regarding Gas Pipeline Proposal on Queens Quay
Our central waterfront, with Queens Quay at its heart, is a special place in our city. After two decades of work, the area was transformed with a renewed connection to the lake, making it more accessible for all. This is why it's critical that we protect our waterfront spaces.
Last week I wrote a letter to Enbridge Gas Inc., outlining my serious concerns regarding the fact that Enbridge is considering Queens Quay as a potential route for a new natural gas pipeline across Toronto’s waterfront.
I strongly oppose any plans that would tear up the length of our newly revitalized Queens Quay, disrupting an important streetcar and cycling route, undoing the careful construction coordination that was orchestrated by Waterfront Toronto to ensure the long-term integrity of the new public realm. Read the full letter here.
Marine Use Strategy Update
Toronto's Harbour is one of our most cherished resources. It provides a mix of active and diverse uses, including recreational boating, water-based transportation, tour boats, and industrial shipping. This dynamic and busy area requires good planning to maintain a balance of uses as waterfront revitalization progresses.
The last draft Marine Strategy was released more than ten years ago.
Waterfront Toronto, in collaboration with the City of Toronto, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and Ports Toronto is updating the Strategy to align with current trends in marine uses, and to determine priorities for implementation.
The new update is focused on three themes:
Management: Who does what? The update is preparing a comprehensive ownership map of dock walls, water lots, and adjacent lands. Responsibility for maintenance, security, development parameters and dealing with high water levels are all being addressed.
Mooring: Where do the boats go? How do we support future growth? Allocation of dockwall space, storage facilities and industrial port use are being considered.
Movement: How do we get from land to water, on and over the water? Routes and destinations for existing and potential new ferry and water taxi operations are being reviewed. New public spaces in the waterfront offer more opportunities to let people connect to the water.
Waterfront Toronto is undertaking a process to establish a vision for the Harbour based on marine user perspective, and consultation with stakeholders. A first public meeting was held on February 3, 2020. The next public meeting will be held in spring 2020.
You can view materials from the presentation and boards from the public meeting here
To receive updates from Waterfront Toronto on this project and others, you can sign up for their newsletter here.
Appeal Decision – Development at 422-424 Wellington Street West
After almost 4 years defending our community's vision for Wellington Street at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), last week we received a decision on the 422-424 Wellington Street West appeal – a decision that is an overwhelming victory for our community.
I am pleased to inform you that the LPAT has ruled that the proposal for 422-424 Wellington Street West does not represent appropriate development for the site.
Back in 2016 a zoning bylaw amendment was submitted to the City, proposing a 23 storey mixed-use building, integrating the existing heritage building on the site. In 2017, the developer, Lamb Development Corp, appealed the rezoning to the Ontario Municipal Board (now called the LPAT). The developer then resubmitted plans showing a 17 story tower atop the heritage building on site. Staff identified a number of issues with the proposal, including the appropriateness of the built form for the site, the treatment of the heritage building, the proposed building height, and consistency with the character of the surrounding area and policies of the King-Spadina Secondary Plan.
I want to sincerely thank City staff for their tireless work on this file, and the community members who took time out of their lives and raised funds to protect our vision for Wellington Street. Additionally, this result would not have been possible without the leadership and commitment of the Wellington Place Neighbourhood Association (WPNA).
Quayside Public Consultation - Round 2
In recent decades, under the leadership of Waterfront Toronto, we have finally begun to revitalize and reclaim our waterfront. We are returning to our original place as a waterfront city, and Quayside represents the next important step towards that revitalization. Quayside also represents an opportunity – an opportunity to build a twenty-first century neighbourhood that is truly affordable, liveable, and sustainable. It is critical that we get it right.
There have been many changes to the Sidewalk Labs proposal for Quayside since they first released their “Master Innovation and Development Plan” in June 2019. To put it simply, they asked for too much. They asked for too much land, too much control over data, and too much control over governance. Based on extensive public feedback and concerns raised by the Waterfront Toronto Board, Sidewalk Labs agreed to make significant changes this past October. Please see my October 31 update for the full details.
Waterfront Toronto has now completed their technical evaluation of Sidewalk Labs' revised proposal for Quayside. A second round of public consultation is being held to provide feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation and whether the proposal addresses the pressing urban challenges of the 21st century.
Two identical interactive public meetings will be held on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, 1 Harbour Square.
The morning meeting will run from: 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
The afternoon meeting will run from:1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The first 30 minutes of both meetings will be a drop-in format with time to review display boards and talk to Waterfront Toronto staff. Presentations and discussions will start at 9:30 am and 2:00 pm. Consultation materials will be provided in advance of the meeting at QuaysideTO.ca. Recordings of the presentations and discussions will be available online following the meeting for those who are not able to attend.
More information on the event is available here.
City-Wide Study of Existing Dogs Off-Leash Areas
The City of Toronto is running a study to find out how the City’s existing Dogs Off-Leash Areas (DOLAs) can be improved to accommodate an increasing human and dog population. We want to hear from you. Click here to complete the survey.
Household Energy Use Survey
The City of Toronto has declared a climate emergency and committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Since Toronto homes and buildings account for more than half of our emissions, it is vital that we improve the energy efficiency of Toronto's 455,000 single-family homes.
Do you want to help? The City is looking for households to survey about their house and its annual energy use. The data will help the City let homeowners know how to make the most impactful and cost-effective changes to move towards a net zero carbon footprint. If you are willing to answer some questions about your house and dig up the records of your past years energy use, please consider filling out the survey! It's a small commitment that could make a real difference for our community.
Garment District Neighbourhood Association (GDNA) - January/February Newsletter
The GDNA represents residents, both owners and renters, living in the area bounded by Spadina to Bathurst and Queen to King. Connect with them at gdnatoronto.org and read their January/February newsletter here.
Explore the Toronto Light Festival at the Distillery District
The festival, now in its fourth year, exhibits local and international light artists. Artworks are curated to educate, warm hearts, inspire or just put a smile on visitors faces. And, it’s free to enjoy. On until March 1st. Learn more at torontolightfest.com
Enjoy Toronto’s Waterfront at Sugar Shack TO
Tap into your inner Canadian this March break at the 5th annual Sugar Shack TO. From March 14-15, Sugar Beach will be transformed into a maple wonderland that will include; two sugar shacks, ice activities, delicious maple-infused food, a Lumberjack show, fire pits and more.
Visit www.sugarshackto.ca and @sugarshackto on Instagram for more!
Bentway Skate Trail - Season Extended
The Bentway has partnered with CBC Sports in support of their coverage of World Figure Skating Championships to extend The Bentway Skate Trail season to March 22, 2020.
Join popular figure skaters, including four-time world champion Kurt Browning and Canadian ice dancer Asher Hill, for a special Q&A, followed by a public skate on Saturday February 22. Plus, watch the World Figure Skating Championship unfold while you skate at The Bentway from March 18-22, 2020.
Visit TheBentway.ca for the latest event details.
Avoiding Frozen Water Pipes
You can take steps to help avoid the freezing of water pipes in your home during winter weather. Frozen pipes can leave you with no water or cause your pipes to burst, which can cause expensive damage.
Visit www.toronto.ca/frozenpipes to learn more about how to avoid frozen pipes, and for advice on what to do if your pipes freeze.
New “No Water Map” Interactive Web Page
The City has created a new interactive web page to help give you quick access to emergency and planned water service disruption information. If you’re experiencing no water services to your home or property, you can visit the web page and navigate to your area or search by address to find out the cause and estimated restoration time.
Visit www.toronto.ca/nowater to use the No Water Map.
Not Down the Drain
Do you know what can and can’t go down your drain? Putting the wrong things in your pipes can cause basement flooding, pollute rivers and Lake Ontario, and clog municipal pipes.
To help keep pipes working well, please do not flush or put the following products down the drain:
- Hygiene products (i.e. sanitary supplies, condoms, wipes).
- Fats, oils and cooking grease.
- Medication (i.e. pills or liquid).
- Household hazardous waste (i.e. paints, pesticides, cleaning products).
For more information, please visit http://www.toronto.ca/notdownthedrain.
Get in Touch with Trustee Stephanie Donaldson
Municipal Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York) is part of TDSB Ward 9, Davenport and Spadina-Fort York. Stephanie Donaldson is the School Board Trustee for TDSB Ward 9. Stay up to date and get in touch with her here.