I want to share two pieces of bad news and one hopeful sign.
At City Council this month Toronto suffered a major setback. Council voted to sell 22 houses owned by Toronto Community Housing Corporation. The rationale offered was using proceeds from the sale to pay for necessary repairs to other TCHC buildings. TCHC has a very large backlog of necessary repairs largely because the federal and provincial governments downloaded social housing on the City without providing the funds for upkeep.
Also, Mayor Ford has mused about selling another 900 TCHC owned homes to fund the City. This points to the very dangerous prospect of Toronto becoming unaffordable for people with lower incomes. Already the waiting list for housing is 7 years. If we sell housing units, the wait will become longer and we will have a profound housing crisis in Toronto.
Ultimately, we will need a national housing strategy that helps repair and maintain affordable housing in our major Cities. Canada is the only developed nation without such a strategy. If you are interested in housing policy, the best Toronto resource is the Wellesly Institute: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/policy-fields/affordable-housing/
Another setback for liveability came at the June 23rd meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. In a debate on the City’s bike plan, a majority of the members backed eliminating existing bike lanes on Pharmacy, Birchmount and Jarvis. This means that 2011 will be the first year we ever made Toronto’s bike network smaller. As a member of the committee I fought these changes but lost. The Toronto Cyclist Union http://bikeunion.to/ has vowed to fight these cuts which come to Council July 12th.
The hopeful sign came from Ward 14: together with Councillors Bailao and Doucette, I hosted a west-end community meeting to discuss the Mayor’s “Core Service Review.” A majority of those in attendance were from Ward 14 (of course). Overwhelmingly, community members spoke out against cutting or privatizing public services. This mirrors feedback from other community meetings. Council is expected to consider the results of the review in September. Special meeting of Committees of Council will occur in July to look at some specific services. I will keep you informed of dates and locations where you can speak up.