Toronto's finances, affordable housing and support for refugees took centre stage at City Council this week.
On Wednesday City Council had our special meeting, called by Mayor Chow, to deal with three urgent issues: the Long Term Financial Plan, Mayor Chow's plan to build more affordable housing, and the City's support for refugees.
Long Term Financial Plan
The city's Long-Term Financial Plan presents a roadmap for Toronto to return to a financially sustainable position.
Council approved an increase in the Land Transfer Tax rate to 3.5% on homes above $3 Million and 7.5% only on homes above $20 Million. The other revenue tools will require more work by staff and in some cases, provincial approval.
Even with a new suite of revenue tools the federal government and province cannot leave it all to the city. Currently Toronto funds $1.1 billion of federal and provincial responsibilities, including long term care and housing for refugees.
Staff are reviewing the Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation & Technology (IMIT) grants for commercial or manufacturing building owners meant to encourage investment. The IMIT is administered in the form of development charge rebates, representing potentially tens of millions in foregone revenue over the next ten years. City staff will continue to look at ways we can deliver services efficiently and effectively.
Ward 14 Affordable Housing Pilot
During the debate on Mayor Chow's affordable housing plan, which increases the target of affordable units by 25,000, I moved a motion to set up a pilot project for a new way of identifying the city's affordable housing targets for developers.
The motion asks that the city set out a target for each development application in Ward 14, including the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC), for how many affordable units the city wants to see achieved.
While the inclusion of these units is ultimately up to the developer – or for the TOC's, up to the province – at every community meeting the community consistently asks about the inclusion of affordable housing. Having the city publicly set a target should help make those requests more focused and lead to the inclusion of affordable housing in more developments.
My motion reads:
- City Council request the Deputy City Manager, Development and Growth Services, to establish a pilot project in Ward 14-Toronto Danforth, for all active development applications, including East Harbour and Gerrard-Carlaw North Transit Oriented Communities, where the Housing Secretariat provides City Planning with a target goal for the number of affordable units to be achieved, with the minimum equal to the requirement under the city’s Inclusionary Zoning Policy, as well as any other related criteria such as Transit Oriented Communities, Major Transit Station Areas, large sites and any other criteria deemed reasonable.
- City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to ensure that the target goal for the number of affordable units and related information be presented as part of the statutory community consultation meeting.
Watch my speech from Council this week:
Support for Refugees
The third major item that we considered at Council was an update on the city's efforts to support refugees and the continuing need for additional support from the federal government.
The one-time funding provided earlier this year partially covered the costs the city incurred, but with refugees making up around 30% of the shelter system, more support is necessary. You can see a diagram prepared by staff outlining the issue:
Given the urgent nature of the crisis Council also approved a one-time withdrawal from the reserve funds to support churches who have stepped up in the interim.
The federal government has a clear responsibility to support refugees who arrive in Canada. They are effectively downloading these costs onto the city during a period when we are already in a budget crisis.
This places a strain on all residents and reduces the services the city can provide. Toronto wants to be able to support refugees who arrive here looking for a better future.