A proposal to legalize pensions across Toronto was frozen Thursday, and Mayor John Tory acknowledged that efforts to attract a majority of councilors had failed.
“Right now, this morning, this measure as proposed here does not have the votes to pass,” Tory said. He voiced support for the launch, which would remove pension bans in Scarborough, East York and North York and introduce a city-wide licensing program.
“The status quo clearly cannot be described as acceptable public policy,” Tory said. But fearing losing the vote, he moved a motion, which passed, to defer the issue until the fall.
At this time, guesthouses, also called multi-tenant or residential houses, can only legally operate in the old cities of Toronto and Etobicoke. where licenses are required, as well as in York. Where houses are banned, an illegal market has endured. City staff estimate of illegal housing is imprecise, ranging from a few hundred to 1,000 in operation in 2021.
Renting a single room is one of the few options on the private market accessible to low-income Toronto residents. Where singles units in Toronto currently rent for around $ 1,100, staff say, a room can cost as little as $ 400, leading some renters to accept unsafe living conditions.
“Residents seek affordable housing options where they work and have ties to the community, even if they are not allowed or in some cases unsafe,” states the staff’s final recommendation on legalization. Over the past decade, the Toronto Fire has tallied 16 deaths in guesthouse fires, 14 of which were in unlicensed homes and two in licensed homes.
But the debate over legalization, which has been ongoing in city hall for more than a decade, reveals stark geographic divisions. Don Valley East Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong raised the issue Thursday as a problem between downtown and the suburbs, suggesting that the council should accept that “the suburbs don’t want this” and Scarborough Southwest Coun. Gary Crawford said his constituents care about protecting the “integrity” of single-family residential communities.
Parkdale-High Park Coun. Gord Perks, a longtime advocate for city-wide legalization, meanwhile, argued that the city’s current zoning rules “effectively lock down some communities, so you can only legally live there if you have the wealth and the status in our community to own a single family home. ”
Pensions were critical for groups like students, newcomers, and those with fixed welfare payments, Spadina-Fort York Coun. Joe Cressy noticed. “We have to take care of them,” he said. “I would have preferred to do this today, but I’m also not prepared to let this get lost or die today.”
The proposal would see a maximum of six rooms per home in most neighborhoods and up to 25 rooms in denser areas. Parking would not be required in the old city of Toronto and on some transit lines; elsewhere, approximately one parking spot will be required for every three rooms. The new rules would also include safety requirements for licensed homes, including electrical evaluations for homes with 10 or more dwelling units.
During the consultations, issues related to law enforcement against illegal housing emerged as a key concern, and Tory noted Thursday that several opposition councilors also raised the issue with him privately. Currently, the staff is proposing to increase their guesthouse compliance team to 28 officers out of six, and add 16 new fire inspection staff members.
Tory, on Thursday, suggested that the blanket proposal could be “slightly modified” for the fall to win majority support. His motion postponed the final vote until late September or early October.
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