Last updated: May 20, 2023 at 4:00a

Housing, Homelessness, Shelters, and Mental Health

All the other “solutions” are the same…

Checking out candidates’ housing platforms, for those who publish one, yields a lot of the same solution: Build more!
They say: “I’ll build 800.  I’ll build 5,000.  I’ll build 25,000. …”.

We heard the same I’ll promise more claims in 2014, 2018, and 2022; easy to make, easier to break.  Some leading candidates are the ones who have been leading the city’s housing strategy since 2012; none made things better.  And we see candidates again promising numbers with no indication of how they think they’ll make that happen.

Build what we need…

Meanwhile City Council seems shocked that they approve luxury condos, and developers don’t build apartments.  I’ll require that applications for luxury condos are also submitted with a plan to build apartments, otherwise the condo application won’t be considered.

And both condos & apartments will need to have 5% of the units being (smaller, less extravagant) deeply affordable units.

Developers will continue to make great profits on the luxury condo builds; but in exchange they’ll also have to construct some less profitable, though still good business, rental units if they want to work as builders in Canada’s busiest real estate construction market.

Remedy City Council’s recent move to create 4 – 5 households per property…

On May 10th, Council approved PH3.16 – ‘Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods: Multiplex Study’ which established that all neighbourhood property in Toronto is now approved to construct up to 3 storey buildings containing up to 4 households with the possibility of a 5th laneway or garden suite household on certain properties.

I believe this is excessive and was the wrong decision, as this will create too serious an adverse effect on the character of many of the affected neighbourhoods.  Following public consultation, and upon consideration of the evaluation report due from City Planning on the consequences of this approved change, I will look at reducing that number to the 3 households per property which recent provincial legislation requires.  Where a 4th or 5th household is reasonable for a particular property, the option to obtain a zoning variance, following public consultation, will continue to exist; and where the public is sufficiently in favour of the particular project, it can still expect to be approved.

It is more prudent to allow the city to grow a little more slowly and somewhat more evenly, to double or triple the population density across broad areas, rather than allowing certain areas to see density quadruple or quintuple, a process which is bound to lead to ghettoization of some regions of the city, to the disadvantage of those who live in those neighbourhoods and doing a disservice to our city as a whole.  Meanwhile even doubling the number of households in our city isn't necessary to satisfy our needs in the foreseeable future; it just won’t be quite as profitable for certain builder/landlords as the latest approved plan.

Put a roof over the homeless…

The related issue is homelessness.  Toronto’s shelter capacity ranges from about 8,000 – 9,000 with known homeless population counts ranging around 9,500 – 11,000; while the shelter system is based on kicking shelter residents out onto the streets after breakfast, with them not permitted to return until supper time.

And with that scheme in place, existing politicians seem baffled as to why we have a deluge of homeless people filling the transit, libraries, and malls, often involved in petty crime and nuisance complaints, as well as causing occasional serious problems, violent crime, and leaving Torontonians feeling generally less safe and more unhappy.

I’ll find the ways to get those roughly 11,000 into a safe space with a permanent roof over their head.

We know it costs more to house someone in a shelter space than basic subsidized housing; and that was before we started paying full‑price hotel rental prices as Council’s current solution to the problem has us doing.  Shelters require countless staff to operate the comings and goings of dozens, in some cases hundreds, of shelter clients each night.

To solve today’s emergency, I’ll retrofit vacant commercial and warehouse space to create interim stable housing, a roof, a bed, a place to close the door and leave personal belongings so they don’t need the shopping cart, a place to eat, a place to not freeze to death, a place to have at least a little safety and peace of mind.

Then, following public consultation, I’ll build permanent essential housing, a handful of rooms, a shared space, bathroom, and kitchen; basically four and five bedroom units within a communal flat.  With multiple flats in the building, with buildings focused on the particular priorities and needs of the people housed there:

  • buildings focused on seniors, those left homeless by renovictions and rent inflation but fortunately having no need for the costly assistance provided in long‑term care homes, spaces tailored to providing for the specific needs of those entering the retirement age spectrum of life, but victims only of our spiraling cost of living while being tied to a fixed income;
  • other buildings focused on those needing mental health assistance, with mental health support staff and appropriately trained individuals (with some funding assistance from the provincial & federal health care budgets);
  • buildings catering to those needing drug‑treatment assistance, again with the appropriate support staff having the training to help improve the lives of those living in there, residents benefiting from the stable environment necessary for successful treatment;
  • creating small communities where the young people, currently without a home, can improve their skills and education in order to help them excel in the future;
  • and residences to provide for the individual refugees who can also benefit from additional training, in areas from languages and Canadian social customs, to safety and educational fundamentals that most in our society received in our school systems;
  • plus buildings sensitive to and tailored for unique community needs such as indigenous peoples and immigrant groups.

The unique character of particular buildings can be adapted to the specific needs of those living there, while ensuring that all are housed; that all have a safe place to be; that all are off the streets; and all of that will be done for less cost than we currently spend on shelters, while addressing the needs of all the homeless population not just 80% of them who are being treated more like livestock.

Ultimately, getting all those individuals off the streets will help to address both the crimes of 10,000 homeless people that currently create a drain on our police resources, and it will alleviate the issue of our transit system currently being used as our city’s de facto shelter, mental health, and extreme weather warming/cooling overflow.

Meanwhile other candidates promise you they’ll build 25,000 homes (and that the province and the feds will pay for most of it).

Crime, Social Programs, and Policing

Just as Housing relates to Crime, so to do Social Programs.

More coming here soon…


TTC (safety and efficacy)

We've seen that having uniformed security patrolling the TTC doesn't result in the safety we all expect, doesn't prevent the TTC being our shelter overflow, and doesn't result in the fare payment we all expect and which funds a portion of TTC operations.

More to come…

Roads, Sidewalks, and Bike Lanes

We've seen that Vision Zero has mostly resulted in traffic congestion, increased commute times and costs, conflict between our citizens, and, with all that, hasn't yielded the end to traffic safety issues as proponents loudly touted it would.

For 2022, Toronto ranked 7th worst in the world for traffic congestion, with residents losing an average of 118 hours per year in their commute; just short of three full weeks of work spent getting there. Granted, that is ever so slightly better than in 2018, when we were ranked 6th worst globally; but then we also know that commuting in Toronto hasn't returned to anything close to the same number of commuters that existed pre-covid, and we still don't know how permanent that reduction might be.

I will work to address these issues…

Property Taxes

The reality is, other than service fees, Toronto's only direct source of revenue is property taxes; and while we can negotiate with our federal and provincial counterparts, those who truly understand the relationship between the various levels of government understand that it is beyond unlikely that either will commit to providing stable funding to our city. It is through funding provided to cities, invariably with strings attached, that they implement their policies locally and cultivate support for their own reelection; and yet some seem to imagine that Trudeau and Ford will surrender that power because it would make things better in Toronto.

We've heard lots of past politicians talk about eliminating waste; and yet we also know that they didn't. As someone who spent decades as a corporate accountant and business systems analyst, I am confident I can find significant savings by addressing existing waste and inefficiencies, and that those refinements of the budget will be sufficient to cover the costs of restoring spending where it has been lacking, while maintaining operations and essential services. I already know were some of the problems are without even having the ability to ask staff questions; I will root out the many other areas as well.

I am not idealogically opposed to increasing property tax rates to cover the costs of providing necessary services; I am simply confident that it shouldn't be necessary to move forward on my platform commitments while maintaining operations.

Moving forward, I will peg property tax increases to the rate of inflation; as inflation rises, so too do the city's existing operational costs, at roughly the same pace, and we know that the past practices of increasing taxes by less than inflation, or freezing property taxes entirely, has the foreseeable effect of creating budget shortfalls, decimating needed services, and causing the kinds of problems we see today — crime, inequity, dissension.

Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre

Discussion of these topics has to begin with the recognition that we aren't talking about “Toronto Place” and the “Toronto Science Centre”. Despite being located in our city, these are provincial assets; and anyone saying that they're going to tell the province what to do either doesn't understand the nature of Toronto's relationship with the other levels of government, particularly the province, or they are intentionally lying to voters in the hope that they'll be in office before the electorate figures out what went wrong.

We need only look at the legal decision, and the multi-million dollar taxpayer funded legal firm profits, relating to the reduction of the size of City Council, to find confirmation that we simply can't tell Doug Ford what to do regarding Toronto. Those saying they will tell the province what to do, or that they will stop the province through measures like permitting, are like school children talking loudly about how they're going to set their parents straight.

I don't support the privatization of Ontario Place; I will fight tooth-and-nail against the monstrosity that I've seen in plans for the spa; I will use the resource at my disposal to try to prevent it from happening, including working with the federal government to get them to exercise their Constitutional jurisdiction over the sea coast line if that's an option, but I also acknowledge the reality we've heard so often of late, “the city is a creature of the province”. And so I will negotiate with all the parties involved in order to get the best compromise I can for the people of the Toronto. As for those who claim that Charter City status would be the solution to all of our woes, they seem to forget how things might have played out if Mel Lastman, David Miller, Rob Ford, and John Tory, not to mention all the others who almost won, had been something approaching equal partners with Ontario. On that point, at this point in time, I think it's safe to say that Premier Ford is unlikely to agree to a Constitutional amendment necessary to make that happen; so, instead of getting distracted, and investing substantial amounts of our energy on areas where we have little chance of success, I commit to focus my efforts on what we've been saying for years are the things that matter, the problems that need to be addressed — Housing, Crime, and Transit.

Food Insecurity and Communal Gardens

I've committed time and again to trying to show compassion for the people in need in our community; and we've seen that number multiplying at an alarming rate recently. The combined effects of inflation, the consequences of covid measures, homelessness, and a looming recession require that we take steps to address Food Insecurity. For a wealthy city like Toronto, in a wealthy country like Canada, to have so many issues with people going hungry seems like something that would have been unimaginable a decade or two ago.

Given the seriousness and extent of the challenge involved, I will make it one of my priorities to expedite holding public consultations then starting to get to work to implement the best solutions.

I suspect that communal gardens are one of the effective measures that we can look at supporting to try to mitigate the problems for at least some of the people; and I am aware that security and safety are just some of the concerns that often go along with such ventures, but those are merely issues that need to be addressed as part of the consultation and planning processes.

We certainly shouldn't have people going hungry in our city; and, just like all the rest, those are the kinds issues that effective leadership can see resolved.

Public Health, COVID, and the unexpected

Covid shone a bright light on a wide range of issues which most of us didn't generally recognize before 2020. From the consequences of the lack of trust in government actions, to the extent of our vulnerability to misinformation, especially in the digital age; from the repercussions of bad public communication, to the suspicion that arises particularly when government is unresponsive and arrogant; from the fragility of our fundamental rights that we as Canadians have so often taken for granted, to the perils often unrecognized within the global supply chain; from the importance that character of leadership plays in how societies fair in an emergency, to how trivial and irrelevant some of the issues we typically focus on during election time can be over the subsequent 3/4/5 years elected officials serve in office.