Cancel the Mandatory Vacant Home Tax Property Status Declaration
Starting in 2023 every property owner must declare annually whether their property was occupied or vacant in the previous year, failure to do so results in a fine of 1% of the property value. This is just so wrong in so many ways. At first glance it appears to be unconstitutional. The declaration can only be made online which is prejudicial to taxpayers who have no internet access, usually seniors and recent immigrants. We have to stop punishing the 99.999% because of the actions of the .001% and cancel this declaration requirement.
We need a mayor who is an advocate for the vulnerable on our streets ensuring their safety as well as the safety of tax payers and their property. On average three homeless die each week, most of these deaths occur in the bitter cold of winter and the oppressive heat of summer. Warming and cooling centres are currently only open during extreme weather conditions. Shelters must be vacated during the day. Recently council was asked by an advocacy group to extend the use of warming centres but alas there was no money in the budget, after much controversy a warming centre was kept open a bit longer.
The homeless often have nowhere to go. Even if they can find a warm bed for the night, they are usually asked to leave during the day with nowhere to get warm in winter or cool in summer and nowhere to use a washroom, get a warming/cooling drink. Some homeless resort to riding transit all day, taking over transit shelters, entrances to abandoned buildings and some that are not abandoned. Coffee houses and public buildings now lock their washrooms to prevent use by the homeless which then inconveniences those that they were meant to service. Part of the answer is Comfort Centres for the disenfranchised open 24/7. While not all homeless will use them of course, most will find them preferable to riding transit all day or trying to access and find refuge in public and private spaces.
Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing
The fastest way to increase affordable housing is to encourage house owners who are amenable to renting part of their property to add a suite or two to their homes in the form of laneway houses, coach houses, basement apartments, etc. This initiative could add tens of thousands of new affordable housing units to the housing supply very quickly. As incentive the city could offer streamlined free permitting and a $1,000 tax credit when the permit is cleared.
Potholes are one of the city’s most expensive maintenance issues. Most pot holes recur every year because patches are not properly sealed; water gets under the patch and due to freezing and thawing, the patch pops out the next winter requiring another patch. The cycle never ends and it is expensive to patch the same hole over and over again not to mention the immense cost to automobile owners who are constantly repairing struts, ball joints and shocks and to bikers whose bikes are continually being damaged. Some streets are too broken up to prevent moisture from seeping under a patch but pot holes on otherwise good pavement can be cut out sealed and patched using new technologies. True the initial cost is more than current methods but the longevity of the fix, the safety to drivers and bicyclists and the savings in automobile repairs will in the long run be more cost effective.
My fellow candidate Anthony Furey has some excellent bicycle lane campaign suggestions but he hasn’t gone far enough. There are bicycle lanes up Yonge Street to Millwood Avenue and the length of University Avenue. There is a bit of bicycle traffic on these bike lanes around the Bloor intersections and a bit more around the business district but generally the bike lanes are lightly used. However, Yonge Street and University Avenue are one big parking lot. Cars, commercial and construction vehicles are locked in gridlock spewing out green house gases as they wait their turn to advance a few feet because bike lanes have taken the place of traffic, parking and turning lanes. Yes, construction is slowing traffic too but not nearly as much as bicycle lanes. This appears to be another case of the tail wagging the dog. Who thought this was a good idea? Was this another ‘trial’ program which when it became evident that it was a colossal failure was kept anyway. We need to stop this nonsense, immediately remove bike lanes on Yonge Street and University Avenue and establish a traffic volume standard for bike lane installation. At least 7% of annualized traffic must be bicycle before a bike lane is allowed on other than residential streets. We need to immediately start removing bike lanes on major thoroughfares that do not meet the criterion. Bike lanes are still essential on qualifying secondary streets, residential streets and zones like the streets around U of T.
Increasing TTC Ridership
Councillor Matlow is correct, you can’t increase ridership by cutting service and increasing fares but he is missing the real problem. Riders do not feel welcome, safe or respected on the TTC. Riders need to be confident that when they pay their fare, the TTC will get them to their destination safely, comfortably and on time. The TTC is not living up to their motto, ‘The TTC, The Better Way,’ it may have been a real motto at one time but now it is only lip service to them. The TTC must create a new covenant with their riders and then own it. The Better Way needs to mean; Fast, Safe and On Time Every Time. In addition to the new covenant with passengers the TTC needs to implement the following five points:
- There must be electronic Status of Service boards at each transit entrance so transit riders do not pay their fares only to find that service has been discontinued or delayed for an unacceptable length of time.
- Beyond the fare gate riders must be informed of service delays in detailed, clear articulate language.
- TTC staff from cleaning staff to management must be friendly and informative to riders at all times. This includes Special Constables who must appear to be helpful not menacing.
- A series of short safety video clips needs to be created with the help of local community colleges and played continuously at all transit facilities to help riders to be constantly aware of surroundings and develop safety habits such as keeping cell phones available to use cameras and panic button alarm functions at a moment’s notice.
- Camera coverage and quality must be reviewed at all TTC facilities to ensure that everyone in the facility can be followed through the facility from the time they approach the fare gate until they leave and this surveillance facility should be constantly advertised.