Tuesday’s hours’ long debate on the Toronto Community Housing Corp.’s report – Putting People First – represents a microcosm of the political division this city faces. An overwhelmingly daunting capital expenditure To Do list. One side says sell as much of the operation off as you need to pay for the expenses (and in so doing, conveniently reduce the size of government). The other views it not as some zero sum equation, an impermeable circle of set dollars that can only change in a downward direction. Let’s call that the more than one way to skin a cat camp.
That a compromise solution was achieved, a partial sell off, much, much less than the real deficit hawks were eyeing, is moderately good news. But make no mistake, once the sale of 55 TCHC homes is done, there will be less housing in this city where some 80,000 families sit on a waiting list. That cup is still half empty.
This is an act of civic cannabilization, just as cutting TTC service in order to use the savings to pay down the capital costs of buying new streetcars is. Without talk of increasing revenues, this conversation is simply travelling along a one way street. Make Do With Less Boulevard. It’s all in the mayor and other right wingers’ favour. The rate of reduction may be slower than they want but it’s certainly up their slash and burn alley. (Yeah, I couldn’t resist).
While it’s only and always been just about attacking the role of government in the functioning of the city, the argument made out loud is inevitability. It’s always about inevitability. Queen’s Park downloaded this file on us without the financial resources to keep things running properly. It’s been ages since the federal government expressed any interest in social housing. The city’s left holding the bag. There’s only so much we can do. So stop being poor if you want a reasonable roof over your head at a reasonable price.
That some of the argument is true makes it sound convincing. The senior levels of government have walked away from the issue, leaving cities to cover for them. But by following their lead – and selling off housing stock is walking away, no matter where the proceeds go – the situation can only get worse.
There’s only so much we can do.
Ummm, well, we could talk about raising revenue. You know, that other side of the economic equation the mayor and his flock of right wing supporters never want to talk about. Except to say, “We’re up to our eyeballs in taxes!” Or, how about a downtown casino? That’ll pay for everything. And the latest gambit they’re rolling out in order to evade an honest discussion about taxes is to demand a redistribution of Section 37 wealth from wards that see a lot of those funds to those that don’t.
In brief, Section 37 funds “permits the City to authorize increases in permitted height and/or density through the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits…” So developments outside zoning bylaws cough up cash to help mitigate any negative effective they might cause to the surrounding neighbourhood. Such money might be used to build a park, playground community centre.
Wards with a lot of that type of development have access to more Section 37 funds than those that don’t. Some of the have not councillors have noticed this discrepancy and want to even things up a bit. Now, I’m not going to get into the arguments for or against this sentiment except to say it’s not as easy as all that since, among other complications, provincial legislation becomes involved. A bid on Tuesday by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti to have 10% of Section 37 funds put in a pool to go toward the TCHC repair backlog got rightfully shot down.
What I do find interesting though is that some councillors (cough, cough.. Giorgio Mammoliti.. cough, cough) are all for this type of equalization payment, let’s call it, but would go red in the face and his head explode to hear talk of property tax increases. Unsurprisingly he has the stones to call Councillor Adam Vaughan who is flush with Section 37 funds the “$51 Million Man” and a hypocrite for not supporting a pooling of this resource (which is not true anyway). It seems collectivism is fine and dandy as long as it doesn’t involve any socialist talk of increasing taxes.
This bid by some councillors on the right to lay claim to Section 37 money to help fix TCHC housing is nothing less than a tacit admission new revenues are needed for the city coffers. Evidently Toronto does have a revenue problem despite Mayor Ford’s campaign mantra. By refusing to honestly face that fact by keeping any discussion of reasonable tax increases off the table, it’s hardly surprising budget cuts and city owned property fire sales are presented as our only viable option.
But that’s not inevitability. It’s a conscious choice.
— predictably submitted by Cityslikr