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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Affordable Housing, Dundas Renaming & More

Well, we've officially made it through the most unusual first year of any Council term ever. Our final Council session of year one held last week started out with 221 items on the agenda. We spent most of the first day on just a few items, including unanimously receiving the New Deal with the Provincial Government, but by day two we had blown through almost 150 of them. We got through almost all the rest on Friday, only needing to defer two items to the New Year. Let's take a look at the biggest items we tackled last week.




This Council decision is a major milestone in securing ongoing support from the Federal government for the creation of housing. They will provide almost $120 million per year to create affordable rental homes in Toronto. Current economic conditions have led many developers to put approved affordable housing projects on hold. The Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) will help jump-start these projects and create more affordable units across the city. 


The HAF will also support the City's Multi-Unit Rental Acquisition Program (MURA). Through MURA, non-profit housing providers, co-ops, Indigenous housing providers, and Community Land Trusts can acquire existing private-sector apartment buildings of up to 60 units. After acquiring these buildings, the non-profits improve their conditions and provide affordable, rent-geared-to-income homes in them. The Federal Housing Accelerator Fund can be used by MURA, which means that much more of our existing housing stock can be transformed into affordable rental housing in the years to come.



This was one of the most talked-about items from this Council session. Last term, Council created a citizen-led Community Advisory Committee of Black and Indigenous community leaders to consider the renaming of Dundas Street and other City assets with the Dundas name based on Henry Dundas's role in prolonging the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.



I believe Council proceeded with a very good path forward—one that honours the work of the Advisory Committee and acknowledges the reality of our current economic conditions. 


The renaming of Dundas Street is not recommended at this time given its significant price tag. Instead, we will rename four civic assets that bear the Dundas name:

  • Yonge-Dundas Square will adopt the new name "Sankofa Square", as recommended by the Community Advisory Committee. Sankofa is a Ghanaian term that is perfect for what's happening at this point in history. It's hard to translate literally, but the word means to reflect on and reclaim teachings from the past, and then to move forward together.

  • Dundas Subway Station will be renamed in partnership with Toronto Metropolitan University, who have committed to covering the full cost of that renaming. Dundas West Station will be updated through a TTC-led renaming process and will be coordinated with upcoming capital work, which will reduce costs and allow time for community input.

  • The Jane-Dundas Library will be renamed through the Toronto Public Library's Operating Budget.

All in all, the City's Chief Financial Officer estimates the net cost of these recommendations at $700,000 for the City, much lower than the $12.7 million estimated to rename the full street.



Over the years, there have been motions moved at Council asking City staff to develop a business case for a new subway station at Yonge Street and Cummer Avenue along Line 1. The creation of new transit rests in the hands of the Provincial government, and they have been very clear that they will not be including a Cummer Station.



I supported a motion from Councillor Cheng to ask the Provincial Government to hear the community's input on this issue. A letter has been sent to the Province, including local MPP Stan Cho and Premier Ford, asking them to respond to our staff's business case and to include it in their community consultations. While I do not support adding City dollars to the tune of half a billion dollars to this Provincial project, I can heartily support asking the Province to hear what local residents have to say on this proposal.



The three items listed above tighten up the rules around how and where a night club can happen in Toronto. Up until now, the conditions to become a night club were murky at best. Throughout the city, especially in the suburbs, problem night clubs have been known to crop up in residential neighbourhoods with little to no police scrutiny until the club becomes notorious. 


We can't pretend that there is no need for night life anywhere in Etobicoke, North York or Scarborough. Without proper regulation, night life happens anyways, but it happens in places where law enforcement has great difficulty serving and protecting us. The bylaws and zoning rules adopted last week will ensure that people have access to the night economy in all four quadrants of the city, and that these clubs will be well-regulated.



I also added an amendment aimed at repeat offenders of our noise and last call bylaws. At Committee, deputants spoke about a licensed night club that does not play by the rules and has admitted that the fines they pay when they break the rules are a "cost of doing business." I suggested an escalating fine regime so that each subsequent infraction from the same club results in a higher fine until it is no longer feasible to ignore. Council supported this and our City staff are now hard at working developing this new bylaw.


GRAB-BAG:


Below are quick updates on a few more significant items we considered at Council last week:

  • We considered an Update and Action Plan on the Single-Use and Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy, which aimed to require that businesses ask customers before providing disposable cups and paper bags. Staff will be further studying some of the recommendations in this update at various Councillors' requests, but Toronto businesses will be required to accept reusable cups brought by customers to their stores in an effort to reduce single-use items.

  • We approved various changes to the CafeTO Program. The main goal was to make the application process simpler and more streamlined for business owners and operators, which will hopefully create more outdoor dining options in our city next patio season.

  • We also requested that the General Manager of Transportation Services provide a detailed report to the Audit Committee on the performance of our winter maintenance contractors after the 2023-2024 season to see the impact of the new contract terms on service delivery. As always, the goal is to ensure you are receiving the level of service you expect and deserve.



Finally, I want to address the decision to rename the Centennial Park Football Stadium after late Mayor Rob Ford. I received many emails from people who are disappointed that I agreed to second this motion by Councillor Ainslie. 


Rob Ford and I did not share politics at all, but I can acknowledge that his support was spread across every borough and every culture of this diverse city. The Ford family has continued to request that something be named after him, as we have done for every mayor that has come before him. They asked for something distinctly local to the neighbourhood where Rob grew up, and one that reflects one of his true passions in life as a volunteer football coach. 


I agreed to second Councillor Ainslie's motion because this choice of venue is so local and so supported in the area. For those who loved Rob, still love Rob, and feel pain because of how troubled he was despite his undeniable ability to connect with people on a deeply local level, I hope this helps. For those who remain angry about his time as mayor and disagreed with his politics, I hope we can move forward and focus on making our city a better place, because the road ahead is the most challenging one yet.

 

Holiday Office Closure


We're taking a break from the E-Blast next week, as my office will be closed for the holidays. My team will be keeping an eye out for any urgent phone calls or emails, and we will be fully re-opened for regular service on Wednesday, January 3.


Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

 


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