We’re One City Or We’re Not

January 19, 2010

One has to wonder how a city functions at all during an election year when even the simplest of decisions is put off until after the election for fear of riling voters. To whit, the January 6th 4-3 vote by the Planning and Growth Management Committee to defer plans on harmonizing bylaw regulations on rooming houses citywide. It’s one of about 43 zoning bylaws that remain un-amalgamized from the former municipalities that now make up the bigger, leaner, more uniform, less red tape-y city of Toronto. More than a decade on and we still haven’t got all that shit sorted out.

Pre-1999 only the municipalities of Toronto, York and Etobicoke licensed the running of rooming houses although the regulations of what constituted a rooming house and where they could operate varied significantly. North York, East York and Scarborough did not allow them in any legal form. So it should come as no surprise where the preponderance of rooming houses are within the confines of the new city.

Now in 2010, city hall is looking at ways to expand the supply of affordable housing as one way of dealing with its homelessness situation. Part of the Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010–2020 that city council adopted last August offered up well regulated rooming houses as one form of viable affordable housing. So it would make sense to streamline the regulations overseeing them and expanding areas where they could operate.

Not so fast, say a few councilors representing wards in the former rooming house no-go municipalities. We don’t want to go rushing into something like this so rashly, do we? There are property values to think of. Households with young children. We can’t just foist rooming houses on them without lengthy public consultations.

That’s what makes the January 6th vote so absolutely fucking craven. What was it the Planning and Growth Management Committee voted down? Immediate implementation of rooming house construction anywhere and everywhere within city limits especially right next door to schools and playgrounds? Hardly. What the committee wanted no part of were “preparations” of “regulations” and “enforcement strategies” for possible rooming house zoning bylaw changes and consultations “with the public and stakeholders after preparing the draft zoning and licensing regulations” and certainly they didn’t want to deal with any report “following the preparation of and consultation on the draft zoning by-law and licensing by-law changes.”

Instead they chose to defer “…to the next term of Council to allow open dialogue and consultation between elected representatives and affected communities regarding the proposed legalization of rooming houses in neighbourhoods where they are not currently allowed.” I’m sorry, isn’t that exactly what they voted against? Dialogue and consultation?

Ward 37 councillor Michael Thompson, who voted against the motion and, by extension, voted for exacerbating the city’s homelessness problem wants to make the whole rooming house bylaw an election issue. How? By deferring dialogue and consultation until after the election. Huh?!

Hey, Councillor Thompson. Can you spell N-I-M-B-Y? While that kind of exclusivist bullshit may’ve worked in pre-amalgamation days, it ain’t going to wash now. If the entire city adopts an approach to battle the lack of affordable housing, we’re all in. What’s that motto of the new Toronto? “One city One vision One plan.” You can’t pick and choose. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least, it shouldn’t.

submitted by Cityslikr