John Tory suffered a rare loss at Toronto council last week over his attempt to legalize rooming houses. An inside look at the move is far from popular, and now a key question is whether Toronto’s mayor will live to fight another day.
Whether it’s anyone’s fault is hard to say, but Tory was killed by the confounding issue of what city hall calls “bed-housing,” not bed and breakfast. The term is a stretch, of course, but what it boils down to is a situation where some new apartment buildings replace the quality old building or new single story buildings replace the large family homes.
Many in the community believed that the number of such houses being built has more than exceeded the number of people who want to live in them.
News reports have focused on city bureaucrats’ stated fear that the towers would add too much congestion on already jammed roads. Others have questioned the notion that public lands and city building would generate enough tax revenue to pay for all the repairs and upgrades to make the buildings livable.
So, councillors from both parties in council managed to pass a motion saying that the continued lack of regulation would be a “tragedy.”
What struck me most about that conversation was the stated belief that the existing buildings are in an unacceptable condition that should not be allowed to continue. I was somewhat shocked by that. Many of these buildings were my grandparents’ houses when I was growing up. I think the three- and four-storey apartment houses had to be big enough to fit a three-car garage or at least a toilet, which is why many of my grandparents were not attached to their neighbors in a two-family house.
Some of the older people in the meetings were left in tears by the declaration that these were buildings that needed to be fixed or knocked down. The rationale they offered was that no one was ever allowed to live in the apartments but the buildings were used by family members or members of their extended family.
In my opinion, if they are not in the immediate family, you don’t know about them, they’re not in your life, so you can’t say anything about them.
This is wrong. Many of the older people in the meetings were left in tears by the declaration that these were buildings that needed to be fixed or knocked down. The rationale they offered was that no one was ever allowed to live in the apartments but the buildings were used by family members or members of their extended family. In my opinion, if they are not in the immediate family, you don’t know about them, they’re not in your life, so you can’t say anything about them. The government has to find a way to resolve the issue. There should be no comparison to acceptable facilities with affordable housing that is what should replace them. But that should not be the city’s priority. The attention should be focused on creating more residential neighborhoods where people can live where they want, rent and pay their taxes. But it is apparently to satisfy landlords that have been using these as cheap abodes and should be replaced by more one- and two-bedroom apartments. I understand that this is tough for those who are used to their homes as family homes, but that is the reality of the world we live in.
I have some trouble understanding how the old “front door should have a locked door at all times” proposal that the press has reported on would have stopped too many problems because they are way too many people to control.
While we’re not talking about single family homes, there are certainly some in here that are completely unacceptable, too small, untenable or unsafe and should be torn down.
That’s why I’m not too upset when I hear that some realtor and teacher have refused to live in any of these buildings, even in their own apartment. And it’s also why I’m not too angry when I see real estate agents, who help find people a home, refuse to rent to owners. It’s just the way it is.
John Tory may not be Mayor of Toronto for too much longer. At the moment, he is winning plaudits from everyone except Toronto City Council.
Dave Shiflett is the host of “The Current with Dave Shiflett” on iHeartMedia Canada. The Current is also available in Apple Podcasts