April City Council Highlights

Toronto City Council had another full and engaging agenda this past April 16 and 17. There was timely discussion about fixing the Vacant Home Tax, big strides in improving tenant assistance for those impacted by rental demolitions, and plans to expand both its Student Nutrition Program and the Alcohol in Parks program. 

What’s New in Toronto Centre 

Closing the Gap on Rent-Gap Payments 

In 2023, over 50% of rental units approved for demolition and replacement across the city were in Toronto Centre. That’s why I worked closely with Councillor Josh Matlow on a motion to implement improvements to the way rent-gap payments are calculated, ensuring that moving forward, our renters are getting a fair deal. The following directives were included in that motion: 

  • City Planning to calculate rent-gap payments using only average rent prices from rental buildings built in 2015 or later;
  • City Planning to report back on the feasibility of including the secondary market (condominiums) in the calculation of area-specific rent-gap payments;
  • City Planning to ensure that existing supports and programs will be available to tenants who were impacted by applications that are already finalized; and
  • City Planning to consult with stakeholders, including tenant advocates, as these updates are implemented.

Alcohol in Parks Pilot Becomes Permanent

After a year-long pilot project that allowed the consumption of alcoholic beverages in 27 of the City’s 171 parks, the program was made permanent and expanded city-wide. At least one park in each ward must be designated for personal alcohol consumption. In Toronto Centre, residents over the age of 19 can now consume alcohol in the following parks: 

  • Riverdale Park West (375 Sumach Street)
  • Underpass Park (29 Lower River Street)
  • Corktown Common (155 Bayview Avenue)

Seeking Support to Expand the Student Nutrition Program 

The Federal government recently announced $1 billion in funding for a new National School Food Program. On April 17, City Council expressed its support for the program and directed the City Manager to write to the Provincial government to request they return to matching the City's Annual financial support of our student nutrition program and bolster its base funding of the program to offset inflationary costs of food. 

City Council also requested an action plan from the Medical Officer of Health and the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation on leveraging increased funding from the National School Food Program to create new nutrition programs or expand existing programs. The action plan is to include the following opportunities: 

  • increasing the number of student nutrition programs by providing operating funding to additional schools and funding essential equipment purchases where the lack of equipment is a barrier to starting a nutrition program;
  • a pilot program to provide nutritious lunches to all students in select schools; and
  • a pilot program to provide nutritious lunches to children attending select City of Toronto summer camps.

Bolstering Tenant Protection Through RentSafeTO 

At the March 20 Planning and Housing Committee meeting, Municipal Licensing and Standards reported back on directives pertaining to RentSafeTO’s fee structure and evaluation tool design that were requested in 2022. The following items from the report highlight some of the changes made to the way RentSafeTO buildings are evaluated and audited as of June 30, 2023: 

  • Buildings aret to be evaluated every two years, rather than every three years; 
  • Buildings receive a dynamic score that is update daily in response to active notices issued;
  • Buildings will be scored on in-suite conditions in addition to common areas;
  • Buildings are evaluated on 50 weighted criteria based on risk; and
  • Buildings that score in the bottom 2.5 percentile in each evaluation year will be audited 

Changes to Short-Term Rental Bylaw 

The City’s Short-Term Rental Bylaw aims to limit short-term rental activity to principal residences to permit residents the flexibility to supplement their income while ensuring critical rental housing stock is preserved. The following updates to the by-law were adopted to further that objective: 

  • Short-term rental operator applicants will require at least two documents in addition to government-issued identification to demonstrate that the proposed address is their principal residence;
  • The short-term rental operator registration fee will be increased to $375 per application as of January 1, 2025;
  • The renewal fee for short-term rental companies (i.e. AirBnB) will be increased to $10,000 as of June 30, 2024; and
  • Applicants for a short-term rental operator registration or its renewal will be required to attend an in-person interview.

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