Affordable Housing, Covid-19, Healthy Homes, Mental health, Public health, Public safety, Toronto

German city supports tiny shelters while T.O. takes legal action against them

The City of Ulm has embraced an innovation created by its residents: sleep pods for the homeless.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/55778733

Meanwhile in T.O. a similar project “Toronto Tiny Shelters” is facing legal action from the City.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ont-homeless-encampments-1.5920822

In both Ulm and T.O. these projects originated thanks to very creative people who have a passion to assist others. The key difference is that the City of Ulm supported this project while our Mayor and Council not only did not support this visionary solution, they believe that taking to court someone who has made a positive difference in people’s lives during this pandemic is a good idea.

If you do not believe that, ask yourselves which Councillor right now is tweeting their support for Khaleel Seivwright the brilliant person behind this wonderful design? Also, which Councillor is going on record stating that this legal action should stop and instead the City should collaborate with the Toronto Tiny Shelters project? No one is and that is very disappointing.

The argument that Tiny Shelters are unsafe because they are made of wood is weak, since they are equipped with flame resistant materials, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Also, many homes in T.O. are made of wood. And Ulm’s sleep pods are also made of wood.  Furthermore, the contention that Toronto Tiny Shelters is not following requirements is just as feeble. Governments can always make exemptions to bylaws and regulations when it is in the interest of the public, such as providing emergency shelter for the homeless during a pandemic. To those that argue that Tiny Shelters are not the answer to the complicated problem of homelessness take note that there is no one answer to this issue and Tiny Shelters as an emergency measure can save lives. The actual problem is we do not have leaders in Council who accept that often the best solutions to our problems come from members of the public, like Khaleel Seivwright.

To manage a crisis such as a pandemic both leadership and vision are required. By not supporting Toronto Tiny Shelters this Council has shown a lack of both. However, to end on a positive note Khaleel Seivwright and his team deserve our support. Please visit their website, thank you, and stay safe.

https://www.torontotinyshelter.org/

Ask Mayor Tory and your Councillor to support Toronto Tiny Shelters

Affordable Housing, Covid-19, Parkdale - High Park, Toronto

Ban foreign real estate investment and short-term rentals

Parkdale-High Park

First, let me begin by saying I agree with councillor Joe Cressy’s recent statement, “Housing should be used for just that: housing.” Therefore it follows that housing should not be only used for hoteling nor should it be solely used for investment. Clearly, the core issue is that housing for several years has become unaffordable for a multitude of Toronto residents. The causes of this phenomenon are complicated, but foreign investment, low interest rates, and short-term rentals are key factors. Consequently, I doubt that Toronto’s well-intentioned new vacant home tax will do much to address the problem of affordability. For more information please read: https://www.680news.com/2020/12/16/toronto-vacant-home-tax-vote-in-favour-city-council/

Canadian real estate law has so many loopholes that for all practical purposes foreign investment in real estate is allowed. Note that many countries do not allow foreign ownership of real estate properties, such as New Zealand. Other countries allow foreign ownership of condominium units, but not land, such as the Phillippines. Not surprisingly, in the Phillippines often it is more affordable for locals to buy land as opposed to a small condo, since in the condo market locals have to compete with foreign buyers. The problem that foreign investment in real estate creates is that it often leaves locals out of their own market. For more information please read: https://financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/foreigners-are-banned-from-buying-property-in-new-zealand-canada-should-do-the-same

However, banning foreign investment into real estate might not be enough. For instance, despite banning foreign ownership in real estate, New Zealand still has a housing affordability problem in part due to low-interest rates. Toronto is in a similar boat, because as long as we have low-interest rates it will be more attractive for investors to invest in housing as opposed to other markets. And it is far from certain that a vacant home tax will help when investors can borrow a million dollars for less than 2.5% interest in a market that substantially increases in value year after year. They will make more money flipping homes than renting them. While raising interest rates might discourage house flipping and increase the number of rental units, it likely would adversely affect homeowners already struggling to pay their mortgages. For more information please read: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-02/kiwi-housing-frenzy-exposes-perils-of-ultra-low-interest-rates

Short-term rentals such as Airbnb raise rental prices. Ontario’s temporary ban on short-term rentals during the pandemic resulted in record drops in rental prices. While it is a seemingly reasonable argument that we should be able to rent out our homes even for a short-term there is a stronger argument that we cannot run a hotelling business unless we are in fact a hotel. And the common good, in this case, lower rental prices takes precedence over hotelling businesses. For more information please read: https://www.blogto.com/city/2020/12/toronto-enforcing-new-rules-airbnbs/

Toronto has a housing crisis. There are people living in parks, streets, and tents. We have both the moral authority and an ethical responsibilty to take action. Collaboration from all levels of government is needed to tackle this complicated problem. There isn’t a magic bullet solution to this crisis. However, a good start would be a ban on short-term rentals, and an end to foreign investment into real estate. A permanent ban on short-term rentals can be done literally tomorrow. While all the loopholes that still allow foreign investment in Canadian real estate must be closed.

Affordable Housing, Healthy Homes, Parkdale - High Park, Public health, Public safety, Safe Buildings, Toronto, Toronto Election, Ward 4

Apartments are Less Safe than Condos

Below, we state the case for raising apartment building standards, i.e. to make apartments as safe as condos.

My wife and I live in a condominium building close to High Park. In the vicinity, there is an apartment building in the Parkdale-High Park neighbourhood where the residents have reported the following: elevators are frequently broken down, its walkways and sidewalks are not cleared from ice promptly, frequently there is an odour in the lobby, the garbage room often is a complete mess, and those are just some of the problems reported. In contrast, our condo has none of these problems. One could argue that our condo is relatively new, but even condos built in the 70’s do not have the issues we have seen in Parkdale-High Park, St. James Town, and in many other parts of Toronto.

So why do apartment buildings in Toronto have these problems and condos do not? The reason is the law. Specifically, the laws governing safety in condominium buildings are much more stringent than the laws governing safety in apartment buildings.

How are these laws different? Our condo board members must take courses as required by the Condominium Act. On the other hand, landlords are not required to take any training in Toronto. Our condo property manager must be licensed also a requirement under the Condo Act. On the other hand, apartment property managers do not need to be licensed in Toronto. Our condo must undergo a Reserve Fund study every three years, which must be completed by qualified professionals as per the Condo Act. Similarly, apartment buildings must have a capital plan under the new Rent Safe program in Toronto. However, there is no explicit requirement the capital plan be completed by qualified professionals.

There is a two-tier system for safety in residential buildings, one for condos which have stringent safety standards requiring training, licensing and professional advice; and another one for apartment buildings with no training and licensing requirements and no qualified professional offering advice. Apartments and condos are our homes. Wherever we live Torontonians have the same right to safe and healthy homes. Consequently, we started the following petition Raise Apartment Building Standards in Toronto, which we hope you will support today.

https://www.change.org/p/john-tory-raise-apartment-building-standards-in-toronto

Apartments

Affordable Housing, Public health, Smoke-free buildings, Toronto Election

Affordable Housing must be Smoke-Free

Affordable housing was a key issue in the recent 2018 Toronto municipal election. Yet it is important to remember that public health is just as an important issue as affordability, and the science proves that second-hand smoke will travel from one apartment or condo unit to another via cracks, doors, outlets, ventilation, and no existing technology can stop this. In fact, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Position Document on Environmental Tobacco Smoke states the following:

Mixed Occupancy of Smokers and Nonsmokers: If smoking is allowed throughout a space or a collection of spaces served by the same air handler, with no effort to isolate or separate the smokers and nonsmokers, there is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of ETS (environmental tobacco smoke).

The position document concludes, “At present, the only means of eliminating health risks associated with indoor (second-hand smoke) exposure is to ban all smoking activity.” Furthermore, Cannabis is legal in Canada since October 17, 2018 which means that second-hand smoke exposure in residential buildings may become an even more critical issue. Consequently, as Toronto develops affordable housing lets ensure that it is also smoke-free housing.

smoke-free

PS

It is very encouraging to see the following petition Multi-Unit Dwelling Smoking Ban in BC:

https://www.change.org/p/honourable-selina-robinson-multi-dwelling-unit-smoking-ban-in-bc