Council Highlights – March 27-28, 2019

Public transit

Toronto’s transit system

Council adopted recommendations and motions that address ongoing discussions between the City and the Ontario government on the management of public transit projects in Toronto. The actions adopted by Council include responding to two letters the City received from the province in late March. The letters name four specific projects as provincial priorities – the Scarborough subway extension, the Eglinton West extension, the downtown relief line and the Yonge subway extension. Discussions are to address responsibilities for undertaking/managing those transit projects.

Public consultation on transit

Council supported proceeding with a joint City/Toronto Transit Commission public information campaign explaining City Council’s position on the transit upload that the Ontario government has announced. The information campaign will detail plans for public consultations and inform Torontonians about matters such as accelerated planning for priority transit expansion projects, integrating transit services and modernizing/enhancing the existing subway system while maintaining it in a state of good repair.

Housing

Updated rules on secondary suites

Council adopted a recommended zoning bylaw amendment that will support the creation of more secondary suites. The amendment removes a time delay, permits self-contained secondary suites in townhouses (as well as in detached and semi-detached houses), and removes minimum-size and parking requirements. Council also asked staff to review and report on the City’s current policy on development charges pertinent to the construction of secondary suites.

Location of municipal shelters

Council agreed to amend the City’s zoning bylaw on locating municipal shelters. The amendment supports having municipal shelters in most areas of the city by removing conditions that had restricted where they may be located. This change will help address the growing demand for shelter services and allow for quick responses to changing circumstances. Shelters are still not permitted in areas zoned for industrial/employment purposes.

Participation in Reaching Home program

Council authorized the City to enter into an agreement for participation in the new federal government program called Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, which replaces the Homelessness Partnering Strategy in April. The federal strategy is a national investment over 10 years to support the most vulnerable Canadians with affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness.

Housing allowance program

Council voted to ask staff to report in May on potential measures to expand the City’s housing allowance program. Funding options to be considered are to include, but not be limited to, the creation of a new tier of the municipal land transfer tax for transactions above the current top tier. The housing allowance consists of money provided directly to eligible Toronto households as a monthly benefit to help them cope with their housing challenges.

Review of community housing

Council adopted a motion that calls for expanding the options to be addressed in a staff report now underway on Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s governance and mandate. As a result, the review will cover various options to improve services for tenants of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, including the possibility of dissolving the corporation and integrating it into the City as an agency or commission.

New affordable housing project

Council supported a plan for the City to support the creation of up to 65 affordable rental units at 640 Lansdowne Ave. as part of the Open Door program. The City will provide financial incentives for the company undertaking the project (Magellan Community Charities). This project will result in new housing opportunities for seniors, with good access to public transit. The site is owned by the Toronto Transit Commission, which has designated the site as surplus.

Standards and health

Heat relief – apartments

Council supported a Board of Health recommendation on steps for the City to take pertaining to excessive heat in many Toronto apartments during periods of hot weather. For example, staff are to look into options for window protection in apartment buildings that balance child safety with the ability to permit air circulation for heat relief, and to explore technology available for monitoring apartment temperatures. City communication with apartment buildings’ landlords is another focus.

Planning and public realm

Site plan review process

Council agreed to communicate with Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to express concerns about the province considering reducing the scope of municipalities’ review of site plans. Information provided with the motion that Council adopted says the current site plan approval process, which takes place in the context of the Planning Act, serves Toronto well and weakening it would compromise high-quality design.

Co-ordination of work for accessibility

Council voted to ask for a report on the viability of creating a City program that will encourage businesses and property owners to co-ordinate their property improvements with the City’s public-realm sidewalk construction, utility upgrades and repair work so as to achieve compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Sidewalk cafés and parklets

Council agreed to establish a separate chapter of the Toronto Municipal Code for sidewalk cafés, public parklets and marketing displays. The result is a harmonized bylaw that will ensure application standards and fees are consistent across the city. The harmonized bylaw will come into force on September 1. Staff’s preparations for the new bylaw will include providing information about café and marketing permits via the City’s Open Data web portal.

Public realm/sidewalk standards

A motion calling for a review of enforcement levels and educational efforts currently in place to maintain the City’s public realm and sidewalk standards, along with related actions, received Council’s support. Related actions to be pursued include, among others, educating owners of businesses and properties about their responsibilities/roles in helping to make the city clean and beautiful.

Economy, culture and events

Continuation of Toronto Global

Council approved the City’s continued participation as a supporter of Toronto Global for the next five years, subject to conditions pertaining to funding and other governments’ commitments. Formally launched in 2017, Toronto Global is an organization that is working to attract foreign investment and support economic development in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

Street festivals

Council adopted a motion calling for staff and the police chief to discuss policing costs and protocols for Toronto’s neighbourhood street festivals, leading to a report for Council on ways to reduce those costs while ensuring public safety at the events. It was noted that some local business groups have expressed concerns about the rising costs of providing paid duty officers at street festivals, which could affect the viability of some of these summer events.

Appointment of Poet Laureate

Council voted to appoint Al Moritz the Poet Laureate of Toronto from April 1, 2019 to 2022 or until a successor is appointed. Moritz, who is Toronto’s sixth Poet Laureate, has received national and international honours for his work as a poet/author. As Poet Laureate of Toronto, he is expected to advocate for poetry, language and the arts in general.

New attraction for Toronto Zoo

Council approved having the City assist with financial arrangements for the Toronto Zoo’s management board to enter into a contract with the Moment Factory for a “Lumina experience” at the zoo. The interactive exhibit, scheduled to open later this year as a ticketed event promoting conservation, will increase awareness of the zoo as a year-round operation and has the potential to bring economic benefits to the city’s east side in the general vicinity of the zoo.

Special meeting of March 7, 2019

City’s 2019 operating and capital budgets

At a special meeting on March 7, Council discussed a recommended budget for 2019 and approved an operating budget of $13.47 billion along with a 10-year capital budget and plan of $40.67 billion. The budget enables the City to provide more than 150 services, supported by capital assets and infrastructure valued at almost $95 billion. The 2019 budget also continues investments in Council-approved plans addressing priorities such as poverty reduction, youth equity, housing, environmental sustainability and city building.