Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Toronto Star – Saturday June 17, 2023
Toronto Mayoral By-Election Puts Housing Issue in the Spotlight
With less than a week remaining until Toronto’s mayoral by-election, the city is buzzing with anticipation as front-runners Olivia Chow, Josh Matlow, Brad Bradford, Ana Bailão, Mitzie Hunter, and Mark Saunders vie for the top position. Housing, a key issue that dominated the previous election in October, continues to take centre stage, with candidates wasting no time in presenting fresh solutions to address Toronto’s chronic housing problems.
In her campaign launched in mid-April, Olivia Chow, a former city councillor, member of parliament, and school board trustee, has maintained a solid lead in early polling. Chow champions a renter-centric platform, emphasizing the importance of providing every citizen with a roof over their heads. She proposes raising the Vacant Home Tax to 3% and using the funds collected to construct affordable and subsidized units alongside condominiums throughout the city. Additionally, Chow aims to expand Toronto’s rent bank to assist 5,500 people annually and significantly enhance the Eviction Prevention in the Community program.
Chow’s initiatives also include establishing a Toronto Renters Action Committee to advocate for antirenoviction bylaws, real rent control, and the evaluation of existing renter-related policies and programs. She plans to build 25,000 rent-controlled homes, including 7,500 affordable units and 2,500 rent-geared-to-income units, over the next eight years on City-owned land. Moreover, Chow expresses support for increased density along main streets and transit corridors.
Josh Matlow, the current City Councillor for Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul, launched his campaign in March with a controversial proposal to raise property taxes by 2%. He intends to allocate these additional funds to a new City Works Fund, which will keep warming centres open and address infrastructure maintenance. Matlow also suggests the creation of Public Build Toronto to generate 8,250 rent-controlled market apartments and 6,750 affordable apartments, including 750 deeply affordable units for low-income individuals. He supports adding up to three rental units to existing homes and approving nine-storey buildings as-of-right on designated avenues, accompanied by a dedicated team to expedite applications and prioritize affordable housing.
Brad Bradford, the current City Councillor for Ward 19, Beaches-East York, and Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, aims to streamline approvals, reduce red tape, and tap into “missing middle” housing to increase affordable housing stock. He proposes ramping up adaptive reuse and implementing as-of-right approvals for office conversions to expedite the rezoning process. Bradford pledges to accelerate the Housing Now initiative, constructing housing on City-owned land with one-third dedicated to affordability. He commits to keeping property taxes at or below the rate of inflation, recognizing the financial challenges faced by families in the current cost-of-living crisis.
Ana Bailão, a long-time affordable housing advocate and former Deputy Mayor, unveiled her candidacy in March with a plan to improve city services, build housing, and enhance affordability. Her $48.5M housing plan includes constructing 285,000 homes by 2031, with 20% dedicated to purpose-built rentals. Bailão proposes modular supportive homes for the homeless, rental assistance for individuals escaping domestic violence, and a freeze on new development proposals threatening rental apartment buildings. She emphasizes the need for planning regulation and zoning reforms to accommodate “missing middle” housing.
Mitzie Hunter, formerly the Chief Administrative Officer of Toronto Housing and Head of CivicAction, presents a five-point plan focused on delivering new affordable housing quickly. Her proposals involve unlocking public lands for affordable housing, encouraging multiplex housing, adding rental apartments near campuses, expediting building approvals and construction, and implementing renter protection programs. Hunter plans to establish the City Affordable Housing Corporation, aiming to deliver nearly 22,700 units, two-thirds of which will be rented at below-market rates. She also supports building “missing middle” housing in various neighbourhoods.
Mark Saunders, the former Chief of Police, pledges to expedite residential construction approval processes, aiming to reduce approval times to one year. He suggests introducing a project tracking system to enhance accountability and digitizing the planning and approvals system. Saunders emphasizes the need to overcome barriers at City Hall to achieve the 10-year goal of 40,000 new affordable housing units. He supports the Toronto Community Housing model and incentivizing the conversion of underused commercial buildings into shelters or supportive housing. Saunders also proposes a federal grant program to cover the costs of building purpose-built rental projects.
In a recent survey conducted by The Forum Poll™ among 1,047 Toronto residents, Olivia Chow leads the race with 35% support, although her lead slipped by 3% over the past week. Mark Saunders follows with 14%, while Anthony Furey (11%) and Ana Bailao (10%) have overtaken Josh Matlow (9%). The poll highlights housing affordability as the most crucial issue in the mayoral election, resonating with 27% of respondents, closely followed by concerns about the cost of living and inflation at 21%.
As the election date draws near, the race remains dynamic, with Furey and Bailao potentially shaking up the standings. With just a few days remaining, the outcome of the election holds the potential for a surprise upset. (AI)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro. If you’re creative, give illustration a try: