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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. I am glad Jenny Yuen’s article about Clubland in the Sun was pretty fair, and presented a wide spectrum of opinion.

    I just hope a more organized opposition forms to oppose the plan for the District. I suppose I could spearhead it myself.

  2. Of course Toronto has to start getting rid of all the party establishments in clubland. Don’t you know we’re running out of land in the inner city.. and we have to do everything possible to prevent that from happening because, otherwise, how would developers be able to continue giving us the 1000s of new condo units a year that we’ve all come to expect. Another interesting read was the Star editorial showing how EXTREMELY low Toronto’s development charges are compared to surrounding municipalities. In TO, these fees don’t even come close to cover the costs of the new infrastructure required with new units — so that existing ratepayers have to pick up the slack. Given all the development that has taken place during the last few years, the slack has represented a considerable budget pressure on the City. How can the Mayor justify this break for developers and then insist that the City’s new land transfer tax represents sound policy given TO’s budget challenges?

  3. Sam:

    There are many reasons why development charges are lower. Two big items are that the incremental cost of infill housing is minimal (even CityPlace is infill compared to suburban greenfield development), and that we need to encourage infill development rather than greenfield.

    Toronto’s additional costs for any unit is marginal. No new streets, no new sewers, really no new hard costs. There’s the new PS at CityPlace but the demographics mean that there isn’t much demand for school spaces and developments tend to prop up schools that would be otherwise targeted for closure rather than requiring new build. Even in soft costs much of development is a wash – some additional parks & rec staff, but much less demand on police services as areas gentrify and nuisances and criminals get pushed out.

    Spacing’s articulated ethos (not practiced, but articulated) supports urbanity and an attenuation of sprawl. So if you are going to grow or even revitalise property, development needs to happen, and it needs to happen in urban environments like Toronto. If you truly want that to happen, you need to make infill price competitive with suburbia. Already condos face severe challenges in attracting buyers compared with the burbs – far smaller per $, minimal outdoor access, much more intimate relationship with neighbours. Low development charges help keep costs down and make the best development for everyone more attractive to buyers.

    Looking at the new building I live in, there are very few costs we place on the city. It’s an upper end condo in an improving yet busy area. We pay property taxes that are far higher than that of the parking lot that used to be here, we all work in the city at very good jobs, we spend large amounts of money at local stores, restaurants and bars and create a high end local market rather than one focused on 905s or questionable situations.

    The city services we use are… Give me an hour and I’ll think of one. That’s 140 units who are making essentially no call on city services. We pay for garbage collection and the city makes a profit on that (rather cheaper to empty one bin for 140 units than to do 140 pick ups, plus less sq.ft. = less garbage per dwelling).

    Condos downtown have no negative impact on streets, TTC (we can walk everywhere and it’s faster and more comfortable than options provided, only occasion to use it is extremely off peak when the system is empty anyways so free money), social services (no one on social assistance buys a $500k condo)… So what exactly are the costs of this development?

    Really why should their be any development charge? The only costs incurred by the city are planning costs that are covered in permitting and fights with developers due to the idiocy of councillors who have legislated density limits they know to be unreasonably low as a means of extracting $ for community improvements. If council grew up, started behaving rationally, and stood up to idiotic BANANA groups like the Annex Residents Association the city wouldn’t have to pay for OMB fights that they almost always lose.

    Instead we have magical thinking that opposes commercial development in the hope of someday finding a better option, ignoring that the city was responsible for killing the existing industry in the first place (hello Big Box Leslieville, if only the city wasn’t financing the competing studios that emptied the site in the first place). We have long fights against tall buildings on top of transit hubs that are within 2 blocks of 54 story residential and commercial buildings.

  4. The City was responsible for driving out much of the industry in the early 1990s? I didn’t know The City was at the table during Free Trade negotiations.

  5. sam,

    You raise a interesting question. Why would the mayor want to do this. If the incurred cost for initial development are not covered and the ongoing expenses for city services are not covered by the newly generated property tax, what could be the logic behind this?

    IMO the city needs the LTT revenue to continue the illusion that it is fiscally viable. Large tax hikes, when the LTT and other fee increases (garbage, water, etc.) were supposed to alleviate them, will prove that the emperor has no clothes. If the city faces tax hikes of >5% after all the new fees and taxes there is going to be a very high political price to pay.

  6. Shawn, I didn’t know that the rest of the province was not part of NAFTA. You seem to be parroting Toronto’s de facto excuse, blame NAFTA. Even the Mayor has come to openly admit that the issue is multifaceted, and acknowledges that the city was not able to participate in the ensuing economic recovery because of punitive businesses taxes.

  7. Reality Check,
    Obviously I haven’t done the number crunching to determine whether development costs associated with new development are covering the bill for the necessary new infrastructure (there are after all only so many minutes in the day). But I don’t see that you have either. So until either of us have come up with audited statements of these costs, I’ll side with those (including city staff) who say that Toronto development charges fall way way short of what’s needed to pay for new infrastructure costs.

    I agree that when need more density in parts of Toronto (as well as elsewhere in other parts of the GTA) but I think we need to do it in a way that is respectful of existing residents (without of course footing the bill for their OMB fights) and doesn’t end up shifting significant new costs to their property tax bill because we are not recouping the infrastructure costs from developers. Some costs are fixed (and paid for) but many are not.

    As for your point that development in the city is facing considerable pressure from OUTSIDE the city, I would argue that the City’s new Land Transfer Tax (which buyers outside Toronto don’t need to contend with) represents far more of a barrier than increasing development fees to a more responsible level. That’s because the land transfer tax is an upfront cost that can’t be mortgaged.

  8. And while I support need for new density, I am somewhat concerned that many of the projects being built are designed to only accommodate people at a very narrow band during their life cycle … ie, when they are single or part of a couple. Very little of this new development is appropriate for families…and my guess is that as these new occupants pass on to their next life cycle stage, we’ll probably start seeing significant pressures for all sorts of needs and services.