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Here’s What Toronto Mayoral Candidates Have Planned for Housing

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Ontario’s municipal elections are just around the corner, and Toronto mayoral candidates are rolling out their vision for the province’s largest city. With housing prices still sitting at unaffordable levels and interest rates remaining frighteningly high, it comes as no surprise that housing is a major talking point for candidates.

Ahead of the October 24 election, here’s a look at the housing platforms for several of the 31 mayoral candidates running in Toronto. With plans ranging from familiar action items like legalizing rooming houses to more unusual approaches like investigating the feasibility of 3D-printing homes, there’s something to address virtually every housing concern.

John Tory

Tory has long discussed the unaffordable nature of housing in Toronto. In August, he released a five-point housing plan to boost construction and improve affordability. The plan includes:

  • Receiving authority from the province to put a “use it or lose it” policy into place for developers, to prevent them from delaying building on land approved for development;
  • Allowing more missing middle housing — including the newly legalized garden suites as well as laneway housing, and exempting new developments with four units or less from development charges;
  • The creation of a city Development and Growth Division;
  • Improved incentives for the creation of purpose-built rental housing, such as lowering fees and development charges;
  • And granting a portion of city-owned land to non-profit developers, in efforts to create more co-op and supportive housing options.

Gil Penalosa

An advocate for building sustainable, vibrant cities with open public spaces, Penalosa wants to tackle Toronto’s housing crisis head-on with what he’s dubbed a “renovation revolution.” The underlying theme of Penalosa’s platform is increasing supply through a variety of measures including:

  • Ending single-family exclusionary zoning citywide and allow as-of-right construction up to six units, depending on the size and height of the property.
  • Leveraging the federal National Housing Strategy for homeowner loans to support conversions of single-family dwellings to multi-family buildings.
  • Create a one-stop-shop office at City Hall to help owners add new units to their properties.
  • Legalize multi-tenant homes, setting out clear guidelines for the number of allowed tenants, washrooms, units, etc.
  • On all main transit streets, allow as-of-right height equal to the width of the road and drop the requirement for pyramid stepbacks. Additional story allowances would be made for purpose-built rental, and street-level commercial space would be required.
  • Drop all development chargers for five years.

Last week, Penalosa released new plans to strengthen the City’s RentSafe program to help make rental homes both safer and more affordable. If elected, Penalosa says he would:

  • Introduce colour-coded RentSafe signs, similar to the City’s DineSafe program, to provide landlords with an incentive to make necessary repairs.
  • Establish rent control in all units that receive any City funding, and advocate the Province to bring back rent control for all tenants.
  • Request that the Province allow the City to take over Residential Tenancy Act Officers to investigate fraudulent “renovictions,” landlord’s own use evictions and illegal “key money” requests.
  • Enact a maximum temperature by-law of 26°C in apartment units.
  • Double the City’s Tenant Defence Fund to provide more legal support for renters to fight unfair Above the Guideline Rent Increases.

Chloe Brown

Policy analyst Chloe Brown is bringing forward a laundry list of bold changes that she would make as Toronto’s next mayor, and her housing platform is no exception. Although her most notable point is perhaps her plan to switch from the city’s current property tax system to a land value tax — applied to the value of the land, not the building that sits on it — Brown has several other housing-related initiatives, including:

  • Once the land value tax is applied, tenants will be entitled to an automatic rent reduction when their landlord’s property taxes have been reduced by more than 2.49% from one year to the next.
  • Accelerate the creation of family-friendly housing in high-rise buildings that are closer to small-scale retail, services, and office uses in neighbourhood-designated areas.
  • Create a rent-to-own program for first-time buyers and renters aged between 25 and 65+ and fund pilot projects that create innovative pathways to homeownership for Black, Indigenous, and marginalized people and first-generation homeowners.
  • Leverage benefit and leasing agreements to make social and coop housing in new multiplexes and high rises possible.
  • Rezone industrial and commercial lands to provide multi-use spaces for non-profit, independent operators and small-medium sized enterprises of essential services.
  • Implement strict limitations on the City Solicitor making heritage designations.
  • Make rents more affordable for essential service operators and providers by introducing zoning reforms for purpose-built, mixed-use, mixed-income rental properties, so that more workers can negotiate flexible work arrangements and provide services close to home.
  • Invest in transit-oriented, mixed-income, and high-density avenue development.
  • Use a speculation tax on domestic and corporate buyers who already own two or more homes that are not legalized rooming houses, multiplex units, or apartments.

D!ONNE Renée

This isn’t Renée’s first mayoral run, having thrown her hat in the ring in both 2014 and 2018. This time around, she says she’s running with the same platform as previous years, which includes:

  • Implement Emergency Measures on the first day in office to address the housing crisis.
  • Establish citywide maximum rental rates.
  • Mandate accessible housing and child care in all condominium developments.
  • Have the City take on co-ownerships to ensure housing as a right, and establish a permanent budget devoted to the maintenance and repair of all homes owned by the City.
  • Build atop current structures such as subway stations, libraries, schools, other City-owned properties, and Highway 401.
  • Implement a moratorium on the sale of City-owned properties and land.
  • Establish a City of Toronto Appropriation Acquired Property buyout by-law that would see vacant properties fined at least two times for outstanding serious property standards issues appropriated by the City.
  • Create a tenant registry where property standards issues and breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act can be uploaded and assigned to a Rental Property Standards Steward for investigation.
  • Establish and implement a license requirement for rental property owners.
  • Set up a citywide database for bylaws, housing policies, developments, property owners, tenants, and approved available properties for rent. This database format would then be leased to other municipalities and regions.
  • Strengthen rent control on properties, regardless of renovations, tenancy, or vacancy.
  • Remove the Landlord Tenant Board’s role in Toronto and establish an independent local process.
  • Close the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, reallocating the budget to a newly created Accessible Housing Portfolio.
  • Reallocate resources, including the police budget, to a new accessible housing portfolio and other emergency measures priorities.

Reginald J. Tull

Entrepreneur and author of Memoirs of a Bad Boy, Reginald Tull has made affordable housing and addressing homelessness key points in his platform. His platform, outlined on his website, says that he will:

  • Address affordable housing issues by first reevaluating spending to ensure no tax dollar is being wasted by improper spending.
  • Build more houses and buildings at a faster rate and at a lesser cost by having contractors bid on each project.
  • Help fund and work with organizations such Habitat for Humanity to build quality homes for low income families.
  • Improve living conditions for tenants by holding landlords accountable for maintaining safe and clean living conditions.
  • Implement annual government inspections for bed bugs, rodents, pests, mold, and safety conditions.
  • Enhance living conditions in Ontario Housing and implement more security.
  • Build quality shelters with 21-day stay periods and supportive programs for homeless people who genuinely are striving to get back on their feet. Each individual who graduates will receive a start up cheque of $700 and first and last months rent paid directly towards the landlord.

Sarah Climenhaga

Lifelong Toronto resident Sarah Climenhaga previously ran in the 2018 election, coming in sixth. She says she wants to start a “gentle revolution” to transform Toronto, with a focus on “finding solutions, not prescribing them.” Her housing plan includes:

  • Create housing by all means necessary.
  • Do away with restrictions that prevent people from easily renting out space in their homes
  • Speed up timelines for repairs to public housing and the construction of new rentals
  • Investigate new building techniques like 3D-printed homes, rows of tiny houses, or converting a parking lot into a micro campground.

Stephen Punwasi

Founder of Vancouver-based real estate news outlet Better Dwelling, it comes as no surprise that housing is leading Punwasi’s platform. In it, he vows to:

  • Review and turn development charges into a tool for smart growth.
  • Encourage more adequate housing through various incentives.
  • Create a City-owned housing company to leverage city-owned land to build cost-stabilized rentals that operate transparently.
  • Encourage better housing data.
  • Reduce building costs.
  • Engage in equitable community consultation about the future of neighbourhoods.
  • Create more flexible planning guidelines that are better suited to affordable housing.
  • Create robust data collection tools to make Toronto one of the most transparent housing markets, with the ability to track vacancy rate and observe issues like widespread displacement.
  • Build a rental registry with standardized agreements and a platform to accelerate tenancy and insurance disputes.
  • Embrace standardization so City planners can be more flexible and creative when needed.

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