Affordable housing and renewable energy wins at City Council this week.
City Council met this week to consider a number of major items including the Vacant Home Tax, the future of the Blue Bin Program, building new affordable housing in Ward 14 and more.
Battery Storage Projects in the Port Lands
My motion asking staff to investigate using city-owned lands in the Port Lands to house battery storage projects was adopted.
This supports the City’s Transform TO goals to transition to a sustainable energy grid and the Port Lands Net-Zero Plan supporting renewable energy and energy storage strategies. It may also reduce the number of hours that the Port Lands Energy Centre is running, which is a major source of air pollution in our neighbourhood.
Supporting Affordable Housing on Danforth
I was pleased that Council supported my motion to support the development of new affordable housing at 1117 Danforth Avenue, currently a supportive housing facility operated by Houselink/Mainstay.
The property is aging and requires accessibility upgrades. An applicant on the adjacent site has indicated a willingness to partner with Houselink/Mainstay, using the model piloted here in Ward 14 with the Riverdale Co-op, to create new affordable housing and revitalize the existing units. This is a tremendous opportunity to create 72 new supportive, rent-geared-to-income, affordable and market rent units.
Thank you to all those who wrote in support of this important project.
Vacant Home Tax
Council considered a status update on the Vacant Home Tax. Along with some small tweaks Council voted to raise the tax rate from one to three percent effective for the 2024 taxation year. This will incentivize landlords to put units onto the rental market rather than hold them as investments.
Additional improvements will be made to ensure that residents are able to receive confirmation that their declaration has been submitted, and Council extended the declaration deadline.
Mayor Chow also moved a motion for the additional revenue above the budgeted amount to be directed to the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Fund. MURA supports non-profits to purchase rooming houses or other affordable housing that may be under threat.
Future of the Blue Bin Program
The city’s Blue Bin recycling program is going to be seeing major changes in the next few years. In 2021 the province passed regulations transitioning the Blue Box Program across Ontario to "Extended Producer Responsibility," which means that producers of recyclable products and packaging assume responsibility for recycling programs. This change will take effect on January 1st, 2026.
At that time, municipalities will no longer be permitted to directly provide Blue Box services to residents. Garbage and organic collection, as well as public litter receptacles, yard waste and other specialized collections will remain a city responsibility after 2026. Between now and 2026 the city will continue to deliver Blue Box services.
If the city wanted to continue providing the services, it would have to submit a bid to the new oversight body in the same way as a private contractor.
On Thursday the city was able to release the confidential attachment which outlines why staff recommend not submitting a bid and why they have serious concerns about the new system.
City Council directed staff to continue to negotiate with the new provincial agency in order for the city be the overall body responsible for recycling in all of Toronto, allowing unified customer service for all waste collection, maintaining the current system of transfer stations, and protecting the good paying jobs that exist today.
You can view the now released confidential information to find out more about the issue.
There was a lot of concern at the most recent Planning and Housing Committee about an upcoming deadline for people on the waitlist for affordable and supportive housing to be registered in the city’s new system or risk losing their spot on the list. The yearly review is a provincially mandated requirement.
That deadline was extended by several months to allow people more time. At Council I moved another motion directing staff to develop a plan to have non-digital, community based options for waitlist access. It also called for non-digital options for people to update their information and participate in the biweekly cycles of housing offers. The motion also directs staff to and expanding community supports for those with no internet access, limited digital literacy or accessibility issues.
Alcohol in Parks Pilot
The Alcohol in Parks pilot was scheduled to officially end on October 9th ahead of a final report from staff in early 2024. I moved a motion to extend the permissions for alcohol in the existing parks until that final report comes back.
This will let people continue to enjoy a drink in the 27 parks that are part of the pilot until March 31st, 2024. . Local Councillors have the option to opt-out of the pilot if there have been issues.
Trees at Ontario Place
I share the concerns of many of you about the province’s plan to remove hundreds of trees at Ontario Place. The province has told Toronto they will not be following the city's normal process where applications are reviewed and there is an opportunity to comment from the public.
Instead they are using their provincial authority to issue an RFP for the tree removal.
Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik moved a motion for Council to get legal advice on what options are available to protect the trees.