Council Highlights

Toronto City Council meeting of May 28, 2020

Council Highlights is an informal summary of selected actions taken by Toronto City Council at its business meetings. The complete, formal documentation for this latest meeting is available at http://www.toronto.ca/council.

COVID-19 response and restart plans

Council adopted a variety of motions tied to a report about the City’s ongoing COVID-19 emergency response activities as well as its plans to restart some public services and support the reopening of Toronto’s businesses. Among the motions adopted is one specifying that any negotiations with the provincial and federal governments on financial assistance should not only address a one-time payment to deal with the City’s 2020 financial problems, but also include consideration of revenue tools and/or direct financial assistance for future years for transit, housing, child care, and public health, among other priority areas.

Second phase of Housing Now initiative

Council approved the second phase of Housing Now to get more affordable housing built. In this phase, six new sites will create between 1,455 and 1,710 new residential units, including between 1,060 and 1,240 purpose-built rentals, about half of them affordable rental units. The sites, which are near public transit as well as commercial and employment areas, are to become part of complete communities. Housing Now leverages City-owned land for the development of affordable housing as a component of the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, which has the goal of creating 10,000 affordable homes on City-owned lands.

Expansion of Toronto’s cycling infrastructure

Council approved expanding and accelerating Toronto’s cycling network as part of the ActiveTO program. The initiative includes 25 kilometres of new bikeways and the accelerated installation of 15 kilometres of previously planned on-street cycling lanes. Most of the ActiveTO bikeway initiatives are quick-start installations using temporary barricades, with minimal change to the existing street design. The bike routes are intended to mirror major transit routes to provide further safe, active transportation options during Toronto’s COVID-19 restart and recovery phase.

Property tax deferral

Council supported recommendations to allow Toronto property owners to temporarily defer their property tax payments. City property owners who are up-to-date on their tax payments as of March 2020 can request additional time to pay their taxes without incurring “late” fees for the six-month period from June 1 to November 30, 2020. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate their financial hardship stemming from COVID-19, including a prolonged suspension of pay or loss of employment, or excessive business revenue loss or business closure, or a pending business insolvency/bankruptcy.

Support for live music venues

Council agreed to provide support to Toronto’s live music venues by approving changes designed to reduce their municipal taxes, consistent with taxation of a class of properties the City designates as creative hubs. Small and medium-sized live music venues, which provide the vital training ground and launch pad for musical careers, now face unprecedented challenges to survive. Eligibility criteria for this year will take into account lack of activity as venues were required to close temporarily as part of Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planning and development

Council adopted a series of items pertaining to approvals that will enable developers to move ahead with several private-sector property developments. Most prominent among them is a major project involving a three-tower, mixed-use complex planned for the Yonge-Bloor area. That development, facing Cumberland Avenue between Bay and Yonge Streets, is to include about 1,600 residential units along with commercial space, as well as a new park and improvements to the area’s streetscape.

Canada Day celebrations

Council authorized staff to enter into a funding agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage for the City to present “virtual” 2020 Canada Day celebrations in Toronto. The City plans to co-produce a virtual event with Harbourfront Centre and TO Live that highlights the heroes of Toronto’s pandemic response efforts as well as local artists and neighbourhoods. Content produced for the Toronto event will be featured in a national Canada Day broadcast on July 1.