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E-BLAST: July Council Highlights: Rooming Houses, Vacant Home Tax, and LDD Moths


There’s only one month in the year that City Hall doesn’t have a cycle of standing committee meetings and a Council session: August. That makes our meetings in July jam-packed as City staff present their biggest projects so they can stay on track for their fall schedules.

This particular July Council session has so many demanding items for consideration that it took Council over two hours just to review the agenda. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable items so far. A NEW REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR MULTI-TENANT (ROOMING) HOUSES Mayor Tory, after speaking strongly in favour of this new licensing framework, moved for Council to defer the regulatory licensing framework for rooming houses until our meeting in September. This presents a real chance to get this right. The important changes that I was prepared to introduce today may well be included in the improved version of this framework we see this fall. Councillor McKelvie put it the best of any of my colleagues: “We can have illegal rooming houses or legal rooming houses. There will always be rooming houses. The unenforceable, illegal status quo cannot continue. I want legal enforcement.” RECOMMENDED STEPS TO IMPLEMENT A VACANT HOME TAX IN TORONTO In a city like Toronto where housing prices seem to never stop rising, the last thing we need is homes sitting empty. That’s why Council is considering implementing a tax on vacant homes starting in 2022. The proposed tax rate is 1.0% of the property’s current value assessment. It’s important to note that this framework has multiple exemptions including for major renovations, ownership changes, and when the property owner is ill or passes away.

You will have a chance to provide feedback on the proposed tax when City staff conduct public consultations this fall. During the rooming house debate, some residents complained that not enough people find out about consultations for city-wide issues. I want to assure my E-Blast readers that any city-wide consultation is always promoted through this column. The upcoming vacant home tax will be promoted here as soon as we have the dates and I encourage you to share this information with your neighbours. SHORT-TERM RENTAL UPDATES AND EXPLORING THEIR CONVERSION TO LONGER-TERM HOUSING The City required all short-term rental operators to register their properties by the beginning of this year. Now, the City is working to shut down non-compliant operators and explore ways to convert some of these homes back to the longer-term rental market. This motion at Council will create a new bylaw prohibiting anyone from advertising a short-term rental unless it is registered with the city. This is another measure that will help prevent the renting of unregistered Airbnbs and other short-term units. HOLDING (H) SYMBOL BY-LAW - 625 TO 627 SHEPPARD AVE E, 6 TO 12 GREENBRIAR RD, 1001 SHEPPARD AVE E, 1200 TO 1220 SHEPPARD AVE E, 35 MCMAHON DR, AND 40 ESTHER SHINER BLVD City Legal has asked for more time to finalize details to protect the City, and by extension Toronto taxpayers, from any potential litigation related to adding the Holding Provision to several developments on and near Sheppard that I wrote about a few weeks ago. This item will be back before Council in September with stronger provisions that mean that our infrastructure and homes are protected as critical water work to increase our sewer capacity begins in the fall. TORONTO’S TEN-YEAR COMMUNITY SAFETY & WELL-BEING PLAN The Provincial government has asked every Ontario municipality to create a ten-year Safety and Well-Being Plan as part of the provincial Community Safety and Policing Act introduced in 2019. Toronto City Staff and Council hope that this heralds a shift away from solely policing and towards governments working together to promote community safety through a variety of strategies. This plan approved at Council yesterday will guide a variety of agencies across sectors, community, and government to work together proactively to promote the well-being of all Torontonians. YOUTH SERVICE REVIEW – INVESTING IN YOUTH OUTCOMES In the very first meeting of this term back in 2018, I moved a motion to have staff complete an exhaustive review of all our youth programs and services. It was challenging for staff to produce this report because we’ve never had a framework to measure the success of the youth programs we deliver. I’m very pleased that this report proposes real rubrics to assess all types of programming for violence prevention and at-risk youth. This is an important first step in demonstrating the true impact of these youth services and it shows us how to best spend our youth dollars for maximum impact.

WATER USERS CONSULTATION ON WATER FEES, CHARGES AND PROGRAMS This item has a boring name so that you won’t look at it or attend a virtual consultation. However, I highly recommend doing so. Toronto Water would like to one day adopt a best practice common in other cities: adding a stormwater surcharge to properties that over-develop or over-pave their land. We have considered this every few years since Mississauga began collecting the charge. Once again, we have put it off. For now, staff will focus on water conservation and stormwater issue related to industrial water clients.

I have asked staff to transparently name any future consultation on this issue. I’m a big fan of being upfront with people about things that could adversely affect their pocketbooks, and will keep you updated when this item again comes under review. LDD MOTH (EUROPEAN GYPSY MOTH) INFESTATION I know how bad the LDD Moth infestation is in Don Valley North this year. We were one of the first communities to really be hit hard by these insects last year, and now they’ve spread to almost every corner of the city. In response to this infestation, Council will be directing our Parks, Forestry and Recreation department to increase their efforts to combat LDD Moth population for the upcoming season.

CHANGES TO YARD WASTE PROGRAM: SUPPORTING EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND SAFETY & BIODIVERSITY Council considered two items related to the future of our yard waste services. One item recommended making paper yard waste bags mandatory to prevent workplace injury for our garbage collectors and make the process more efficient. Staff also recommend leaving yard waste on our properties one month longer, to mid-April. They found that leaving yard waste on our properties just a few weeks longer helps the survival of many species who spend the winter living under the very plants we gather up in the spring. Council has sent these two items back to staff for further analysis, outreach, and consultation. I’ll provide an update on these items when they return to Council. NET ZERO BUILDINGS STRATEGY & NET ZERO CARBON PLAN Council adopted a Net Zero Buildings strategy to help achieve Toronto’s TransformTO goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions city-wide by 2050. This strategy sets out to reduce building emissions by requiring emissions levels to be tracked, disclosed and audited, establishing sector-specific emissions standards, and making retrofits more accessible.

The City’s own building portfolio has set goals to achieve net zero emissions in City buildings through a variety of strategies like fuel switching, retrofits, carbon offsets, and on-site renewable energy solutions. Existing buildings are currently Toronto’s largest source of emissions, even more than automobiles, and these plans will tackle those emissions head on. ENDORSING THE CALL FOR A FOSSIL FUEL NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY Together with Councillor Mike Layton, I have moved a motion to have Council endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. We know we need to drastically cut our emissions if we want to limit global warming and mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change. For me, endorsing this treaty is also about being proactive. The below clip from CBC’s The National shows that young people are already moving towards the renewable energy sector. This is where the market is headed and Toronto needs to be on board.

STOP EXCESSIVE CONSTRUCTION NOISE - GETTING THE PROVINCE TO BACK OFF FROM OVERRIDING TORONTO’S NOISE BYLAW At the beginning of the pandemic, the Province moved to suspend the City's long-debated Noise Bylaw that protects residents from excessive noise. Council has now formally requested that the Provincial government repeal its current regulation that has allowed construction to take place from 6 AM – 10 PM, seven days per week. Council wants to regain control over our noise bylaw and go back to our policy of 7 AM – 7 PM on weekdays, 9 AM – 7 PM on Saturdays, and no construction on Sundays. I know many residents in our neighbourhood have really been suffering with these extended construction hours, and I hope the Province will grant Council’s request. FEASIBILITY OF RESTRICTING THE SALE OF CONSUMER FIREWORKS I’ve heard from many people in the community who are concerned about the increase in unsafe firework use during the pandemic. After this request from Councillors Nunziata and Grimes, the Municipal Licensing and Standards department will look into the feasibility of restricting the sale of fireworks to the public to prevent these dangerous incidents from occurring. REVIEWING SERVICE LEVELS FOR GRASS CUTTING SERVICES Grass cutting services have been slowly declining over the past several years due to ongoing budget cuts to our City departments. Council will be asking staff to review the current service levels and report back to the Budget Committee on what would be needed to increase the number of cuts per season to keep our public spaces looking their best.

 

I hope you found these Council highlights helpful and informative. We are taking a short break from the E-Blast and will be back the first week of August with more important updates for our community. My office’s phone line and email will continue to be answered over the next two weeks, so please don’t hesitate to reach out about any issues that may arise.


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