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What TMU students should look out for in Toronto’s 2023 city budget proposal

By Emerson Williams

Toronto City Council passed John Tory’s $16.2 billion budget on Feb. 15. 

The budget was to be finalized and presented to Toronto’s City Council at a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14 but was moved to honour former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, who passed away on Jan. 29.

The City of Toronto launched its 2023 proposed plan earlier this year on Jan. 10. 

Here are a few changes the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) community should watch out for in this new proposed budget:

Funding toward multi-tenant housing

Young renters can expect to see more multi-tenant housing. 

According to the City of Toronto’s website, multi-tenant housing is when four or more individuals rent a home with shared kitchen and bathroom spaces.

The city is proposing an investment of $3.5 million into the expansion and legalization of units that can hold up to four renters. Prior to Dec. 14, 2022, multi-tenant housing was only permitted multi-tenant housing was only permitted in certain parts of Toronto and its surrounding areas.

Armand Ustun, a first-year biomedical engineering student at TMU, was relieved when he heard of the city’s plans to accommodate multiple tenants in a unit. 

“If I do move, it’s most likely that I will have a roommate or someone that will also be paying rent. So that’s probably a pretty good thing for me,” said Ustun. “It’s hard to find good spots, good locations [with several rooms].”

No plans to increase affordable housing 

The budget does not include mention of any changes to housing costs or efforts to influence the rising costs of rent. 

According to a report, national annual rents went up 10.7 per cent in January of this year.

Statistics Canada reports 1.5 million Canadian families lived in meagre and unaffordable homes in 2021.

Dantzler said much of the housing affordability problem comes from ignoring the financial reality of Torontonians. 

Prentiss Dantzler, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, said fixing Toronto’s housing affordability starts with managing the rights and abilities of landlords. 

“There [are] no restrictions on how much [landlords] can actually charge for these units. A lot of them are not being designated as affordable housing units,” he said. “Even if you increase a lot of this housing, that does not necessarily mean that prices are going to drop or become more affordable.”

“I would like to see more affordable housing that is connected to actual real incomes,” he said.

Housing support from federal and provincial levels 

The 2023 budget outlines how the city will work with the provincial and federal governments to increase and improve housing. 

The Ontario government will provide $48 million toward supportive housing “under its responsibility for mental healthcare,” according to the report. The federal government will also provide $97 million for refugee housing. 

Still, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s amendments to provincial Bill 23, in November 2022, raised concerns surrounding the fulfillment of these promises. 

As previously reported by The Eye, the bill, named the “The More Homes Built Faster Act,” is intended to put forth the province’s efforts to build 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years in the Greenbelt.

The bill was first introduced on Oct. 25, 2022.

“Doug Ford is missing in action,” said MPP representative Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Toronto Centre, in a written statement emailed to The Eyeopener

“Ford’s changes in Bill 23…will force Toronto to make cuts that hurt students, renters and residents already struggling to make ends meet,” they added. 

Prioritizing recreational spaces 

Torontonians can expect more options for physical activity around the city in 2023 with the $2.86 million that will be invested into the city’s facilities.

The city is looking to clean-up snow on park pathways and trails, open washrooms earlier in the spring and close them later in the fall, and make water fountains accessible year-round, according to the budget breakdown.

The investment will be used to implement portable toilets and sinks to “address the significant encampment issue and hygiene needs in parks.”

The budget also looks to “provide enhanced public space cleaning and litter removal to address increased use of parks and waterfront areas.”

Toronto is aiming to protect the hours of recreation centres during off-peak seasons. Outdoor rinks and pools will also be operating on full schedules. 

Two new Community Recreation Centres will open and the city will aim to “provide high-quality leadership, volunteer and work experience to youth, particularly those who experience systemic barriers, using targeted recruitment and youth-focused programming.”

The report states Bill 23 will impact Toronto’s ability to collect development charges and parkland levies. For this reason, there is a funding gap to support the anticipated growth and funds necessary.

Toronto Public Library funding 

An increase of $8.5 million in the Toronto Public Library’s funding will bring students more study resources in 2023. 

This increase follows COVID-19 expenses and increased spending on three different programs.

The Community-based Service for Equity Deserving Populations establishes a team of four community librarians solely dedicated to “serving equity deserving populations across the city,” according to the budget breakdown.

The Financial Empowerment Service budget provides “one-on-one, in-person support from community agency experts providing in depth and personalized counselling to Torontonians.”

The counselling will focus on areas like budgeting, filing taxes and debt levels.

These models look to service Black and racialized individuals, Indigenous peoples, persons with low income, unhoused individuals or families, immigrants, refugees and undocumented individuals and persons with disabilities.

The Social Service Team budget works to establish two teams that offer social and health related services at designated libraries.

“TPL designed the program specifically for individuals in our city who are the most vulnerable and least likely able to navigate access to the mental and physical health resources and social service supports required to improve their lives and their wellbeing,” it reads.

More money toward crisis intervention services 

The city is making large investments into emergency safety, including non-police response personnel for those in crisis. $17 million is to be added to crisis support around Toronto. 

This increase in funding will go towards the Community Crisis Service pilot program launched in 2022, which is said to provide those in crisis with a community-based, assistive non-police response. 

Funding will also go toward the Community Crisis Response Program which sends support to those who have recently faced violence. 

Raise in TTC fare prices 

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) users can expect to pay ten cents more per trip, as previously reported by The Eye

The budget breakdown includes maintenance contract costs for lines five and six, high Presto commission fees and an increase in Wheel-Trans service costs.

$9.8 million will go towards material cost increases, inflation and higher diesel prices.

Though Bulk Presto tickets will still be a valid payment form, the legacy ticket sales will be ended to create budget savings.

The budget notes that the TTC has seen “an increase in underhoused individuals seeking refuge on the system,” hence it partnered with the Streets to Homes program to fund 10 dedicated outreach workers and two team leads.

25 Special Constables and two supervisor positions will be funded with this budget to enhance security for riders, and downtown streetcar routes will see enhanced cleaning during the day.

First-year urban planning student Justin Buckly said every penny counts, even with just a slight price rise. 

“[The new prices are] definitely intimidating,” he said. “That doesn’t seem like a lot but for some people it definitely adds up,” he said.

The increase in TTC fare prices is daunting for a student like Ustun, who will continue to travel from outside the city for years to come. 

“[I will] not [be renting] next year. Third or fourth year maybe…I spend a lot of money already on transit, on transportation. So I’d rather not have to spend more,” he said. 

Toronto Centre city councillor Chris Moise expressed similar concerns. 

“The TTC fare increase coupled with the service cuts is extremely worrisome. Longer wait times between trains will increase crowding on platforms and may leave some riders feeling isolated due to the lack of cellular service within stations,” said Moise’s team in a statement to The Eyeopener. 

“We are paying more to get less,” they added.

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