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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Active Transportation, Housing Supports, & More

This week, City Council returned for our first regular-business session of the current term of office. It was an action-packed two days, so let's take a look at the some of the most significant items we considered. CAFETO 2023 AND BEYOND City Council voted yesterday to make CafeTO a permanent program. This program started as a pilot in summer 2020 to support our restaurant industry at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing restaurants to expand their outdoor patios onto sidewalks and curb lanes to create more outdoor dining space. This program has been very successful, with over 1300 restaurants participating and over $200 million in economic benefits generated for the city in 2022 alone.

Making this program permanent is an important move in continuing to support our hospitality sector here in Toronto. In acknowledgement of the gradual return to normal business, City Council has approved a three-year phased introduction of the fees that were charged prior to the pandemic. The Federal government is providing a grant to ensure that each platform patio will be accessible. ACTIVETO CYCLING NETWORK EXPANSION PROJECT UPDATES Another pilot made permanent: the Midtown Complete Street program. This pilot started up in spring 2021, and introduced protected bike lines on Yonge Street from Bloor to Davisville, amongst other improvements. Taken together, these changes have increased pedestrian and cycling trips by up to 145% and 250%, respectively, while driving times generally did not increase by more than one minute. Creating safe opportunities for active transportation helps us reach out climate goals, reduces the number of cars on the road, and, most importantly, helps us work towards our Vision Zero goal of zero fatalities on our streets. GARDINER EXPRESSWAY AND DON VALLEY PARKWAY CLOSURE – BIKE FOR BRAIN HEALTH We don’t often close the Gardiner or DVP, but both will be closed for the Bike for Brain Health on Sunday, June 4. When Council permits an activity like this on our expressways, we also prohibit any other planned road closures in a wide area and direct the TTC to not plan subway closures to ensure we have the space to accommodate spillover traffic. Ultimately, it's one day of inconvenience to support a great cause. If you have never cycled these elevated highways before, consider signing up. Proceeds go to Baycrest's brain health research and the views are spectacular.

COLD WEATHER AND THE EFFECTS ON THOSE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS Warming centres are an important tool in the array of shelter supports our city offers, but they are challenging to operate. Ultimately, we are facing a broader homelessness crisis not just here in Toronto but across the Province. As I've touched on in past E-Blasts, cities are not financially equipped to fully respond to this crisis but we are currently doing all we can. The Mayor and Council are calling on the Provincial and Federal Governments to up their financial involvement to address this issue in every city. In the meantime, staff are now sheltering over 9,000 people experiencing homelessness every night and have the authority to expand warming centres whenever they can secure appropriate locations and the necessary staff. COVID-19 SHELTER TRANSITION AND RELOCATION PLAN UPDATE 2023 & CREATING NEW AFFORDABLE AND SUPPORTIVE HOMES FOR PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS The City is currently operating 23 temporary shelter sites across Toronto. Of the 9,000+ individuals noted above, 3000 are in emergency hotels. This initiative started up at the beginning of the pandemic due to an increase in those experiencing homelessness and the need to physically distance in shelters. Now, funding from other orders of government to operate these sites is winding down and some owners want their hotels back. Staff presented Council with a plan to gradually transition out of these sites over the next two years. However, it is important to note that the success of this plan hinges on our ability to build enough deeply affordable and supportive housing for people to move out of our shelter system successfully and permanently. The second motion linked above focuses on doing just that—it directs staff to work with Toronto Community Housing and other City corporations to identify at least four potential sites to create new modular or other forms of supportive housing by this time next year.

[embed video here] A video from the City showing what modular supportive housing looks like.

UPDATE ON THE TRANSITION OF TORONTO'S BLUE BIN RECYCLING PROGRAM TO EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY We are moving towards an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) recycling model, which makes producers responsible for the cost of recycling their products at end-of-life. Currently, that cost is borne by your solid waste bin fees. This is an important step towards waste reduction, and this item at Council updated Councillors on the work the City is doing to move towards this model. I look forward to sharing more on our transition to this program in the years ahead. 10 RUDDINGTON DRIVE I touched on this development application in our ward in my E-Blast last week. This proposal was appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, and the applicant has now made a settlement offer that addresses many of the concerns on the site, including reducing the height of one building and converting another into townhouse units. I held a community meeting on Monday evening, before Council considered the item, to go through the settlement offer with the community and some of the key improvements that City Planning & Legal were able to secure for us. I’m especially proud of all of us on this one. From my first conversations with residents, we all wanted to see the 131 unit building reduced to townhouses and it is rare, given the ever-changing provincial rules, to get the outcome we hoped for. REVIEWING REVENUE TOOL OPTIONS FOR TORONTO This motion, moved by Mayor Tory, directs staff to create an updated report on additional revenue tools currently available to us under the City of Toronto Act. As I wrote about in the E-Blast last month, our city is at a financial tipping point and we need to start looking at revenue options beyond property taxes to fund our infrastructure and services. I would have liked to see staff also report on the revenue from tools beyond what's permitted in the City of Toronto Act, such as a Municipal Sales Tax, but I am glad that we as a city are taking a hard look at our currently available options.


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