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Where is the next Parkdale?

July 5, 2018

If you have been watching Toronto’s housing news as I have, you will have seen Parkdale’s name everywhere. Rent strikes that lead to major victories. City Council approval to purchase rooming houses to protect tenants from displacement. The Parkdale People’s Economy, Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, Parkdale Community Legal Centre, and a host of other local groups pulling together towards a common cause.

And I think, “Why can’t we do this in other neighbourhoods?” and perhaps more to the point, “Why can’t we do this in MY neighbourhood?” Read more…

Okay, Toronto. It’s up to you

June 11, 2018

As I watched last Thursday’s election results, I was reminded of the motto printed on housing hero Steve Pomeroy’s letterhead: focus on what you can do, not what you cannot.

It’s a motto I hope Toronto will adopt. Read more…

Why can’t TCHC tenants move like everyone else? 

May 15, 2018

This month Toronto Community Housing is consulting tenants on ways to make its internal transfer process – the process that enables tenants already living in TCHC to move from one home to another – fairer, more consistent and better resourced.

It’s a high stakes discussion. Right now, the only way tenants can move to another TCHC unit for any reason – they need an extra bedroom, they can’t climb stairs, the man who raped them has just moved into their building – is to join TCHC’s Internal Transfer List. Read more…

The search for Akelius-proof rental investment

April 27, 2018

“We don’t just need housing supply. We need the right supply.”

It’s an important message advanced by Ryerson City Building Institute’s Cherise Burda, Creative Housing’s Jennifer Keesmaat and many others.

But as we consider new housing development, let’s also give a thought to the “right supply” we already have: the over 600,000 purpose-built rental homes that house most of Toronto’s low and moderate income families. Read more…

The landed and the tenantry

April 10, 2018

I live in a nice, three-bedroom detached house in Leslieville, home to four adults and three home businesses. Our $152,000 mortgage was paid off years ago. Today, our total housing costs ($400/month in property taxes, plus utilities, insurance, maintenance and major repairs) comes to $863/month.

In other words, I pay less for my three-bedroom house than the $1019 average rent for a bachelor apartment in the City of Toronto.[1] Read more…

Preserving family values in the Yellow Belt

March 22, 2018

Did everyone see Shane Dingman’s excellent article in last Friday’s Globe and Mail?

Under the headline, “Toronto’s low-rise neighbourhoods losing density as ‘overhousing’ spreads,” the article presents new findings showing that – at a time when Toronto is rapidly growing — 52.7% of Toronto neighbourhoods have become less dense, losing about 210,000 people between 2001 and 2016.

These neighbourhoods look much as they have for the past few decades. But instead of houses full of children, many houses have only one or two occupants. The result: despite an acute affordable housing shortage Toronto has over 2 million spare bedrooms. Read more…

What would a Doug Ford Premiership mean for housing?

March 15, 2018

In 1995 the Conservatives swept to power heralding the Common Sense Revolution. Within months of taking office they had cut social assistance rates, cancelled community housing development and begun to replace legislated protections for tenants.

Will history repeat itself should Doug Ford become Ontario’s next premier? It’s hard to know. To my knowledge Ford did not mention housing affordability, housing policy or anything at all related to housing in his brief leadership campaign. But his campaign rhetoric could have been word-for-word from the headlines in the Common Sense Revolution: 1) lower taxes, 2) cut spending, 3) “send a signal around the world that Ontario is open for business again,” and 4) cut the size of government. Read more…

Where will the next generation live?

May 2, 2017

I don’t blog very often these days. That’s partly because I’m busy. But it’s also because I hardly need to: the topics that are closest to my heart now make headlines on a daily basis. And few are closer to home than this question: what are the policy solutions that could keep downtown Toronto affordable for the next generation?

That was the topic of a blog I wrote back in 2011, and that’s the topic of my upcoming Jane’s Walk,, Where will the next generation live?” 

It’s a two-hour tour in my east-end neighbourhood. It used to be an ordinary working class district. But there is no place now for the working class, or even the middle-class young men and women who grew up here.  

Are there answers on the street?

There are if you look for them. Suites above, below and behind. Non-profit and co-op houses that were bought for a song — and can now be leveraged to create new homes. And then there are the local solutions we can’t see: community land trusts, fair rents, “tenants first” rooming house regulations and 21st century zoning.

These are some of the topics I hope to talk about on Saturday. I don’t pretend to be an expert. But I’m willing to share what I know, and pose the questions in hopes that someone on tour will know the answer. That someone might be you!

Come and join us.

The tour starts this Saturday, May 6th, 10 am in front of Roden School, 151 Hiawatha Road, just north of Gerrard, between Coxwell and Greenwood.


A rooming house policy that puts tenants first

October 25, 2016

On October 26th, Toronto’s City Planning and Municipal Licensing & Standards Divisions will bring their proposed rooming house[1] strategy to Toronto’s Executive Committee.

It’s a thoughtfully-written document, but a cautious one, recommending another full year of consultations – this after a comprehensive research and consultation program that began in 2014 and entailed 14 neighbourhood consultations, 7 tenant focus groups, meetings with post-secondary institutions, agencies and rooming house operators, and an online survey – simply to introduce a pilot project.

It is hard to predict the outcome of the consultations. But one thing I do know. If the City of Toronto hopes to make good on its 2010-2020 Affordable Housing Action Plan or its Poverty Reduction Strategy, its rooming house policy must put tenants first. Read more…

Rooming House By-laws for the 21st Century

May 10, 2016

I don’t often recommend the Globe and Mail comments section as a source of policy guidance. But I hope everyone who cares about rooming houses in Toronto spotted the most “liked” comment following John Lorinc’s recent article on “Dangerous – but affordable – fire-trap apartments.” Read more…