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Toronto’s newly elected mayor Olivia Chow promised a number of changes during her two-month campaign, the most notable being plans to build affordable housing on publicly owned land and expand eligibility requirements for renters.
Chow, a former NDP MP who also ran in the 2014 Toronto mayoral election, losing that race, focused mainly on her “City Homes Plan” during her campaign, which would “allow the City to act as a developer to build 25,000 rent-controlled homes on city-owned land.”
“There will be a minimum of 7,500 affordable units, including at least 2,500 rent-geared-to-income units,” the plan states, noting that the City of Toronto owns “over 8,400 properties across 28,000 acres of land, including parking lots and surplus land.”
“CreateTO will be a developer and partner with the construction sector to build rental buildings that the City will own and non-profit organizations can operate—creating a mix of affordable and market rate homes that will be accessible to families of all income levels,” the plan says.
With regard to renters in Toronto, Chow has promised to create the “Secure Affordable Homes Fund” through which the city will spend $100 million every year to “stop renovictions by helping purchase, repair and transfer affordable rental apartment buildings to not-for-profit, community, and Indigenous housing providers (i.e. land trusts) so they can be preserved as affordable rental homes.”
Chow has also promised to double the reach of Toronto’s Rent Bank and scale up the Tenant Support Program to help renters facing eviction and above-guideline rent increases.
The new mayor has also said she will introduce a “luxury homes tax,” which will raise the Municipal Land Transfer Tax on homes priced above $3 million. She promised to use all public revenue from the new tax “to support people experiencing homelessness and help people stay housed.”
Meanwhile, property tax will go up by a “modest” amount, Chow has said, without providing an exact amount.
Chow has also said she will address Toronto’s rising homelessness rates by creating “1,000 new rent supplements to help people secure permanent housing” and establishing new “24/7 respite spaces, where people can access a shower, meals, a bed, and access resources and critical services.”
Despite rising crime rates across Toronto—particularly on the public transit system—Chow’s campaign platform did not include any promises to increase funding for public safety measures or police.
Chow has instead promised to reverse recent service cuts to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and ensure that all subway lines have cell service. She also said she will “restore workers in TTC stations to be the eyes and ears of the system.”
Better crisis response was another election promise. Chow said she will expand community crisis teams city-wide, which respond to mental health and other calls made to 211 or 911. She also promised to improve 911 wait times.
Libraries will see expanded weekday hours, she said, and she will ensure every Toronto Public Library branch is open seven days a week.
In addition, Chow has vowed to stop the province’s proposal to move the Ontario Science Centre in east Toronto to a redeveloped Ontario Place along the city’s waterfront.
Instead, she said the money for the redevelopment would be better spent to upgrade Ontario Place and keep it as a free public park open to all. And she wants the Science Centre to stay in its current location, saying that it is a “source of good local jobs in a community that is often left out of economic opportunity.”
She has also said she would not use the “undemocratic strong mayor powers” granted by the province, but is committed to supporting “majority rule” at city hall and would “never veto council decisions.”