Toronto property taxes could go up and people are already complaining
Toronto Mayor John Tory is proposing an increase in property taxes to help fund much-needed housing and transit projects, which is quite the switch for a mayor who originally pledged never to increase taxes beyond inflation.
During a speech to the Canadian Club on Wednesday morning, Tory explained why an increase on an established special levy on all property taxes, called the city building fund, is absolutely essential in order for the city to continue to prosper.
Speaking to the @CdnClubTO about what we've achieved in the first year of my second term as Mayor of this great city. Specifically, our efforts to get transit and affordable housing built, while maintaining the prosperity and stability our city has enjoyed. pic.twitter.com/bLS8Lxc5w2— John Tory (@JohnTory) December 4, 2019
He said the levy would increase to a cumulative 10.5 per cent over nine years as opposed to 2.5 per cent over five years, which is the current plan.
"If we don’t make these investments the one thing I can promise people for sure is that this city will not be able to maintain the incredible success we have had over the last five or so years as a magnet for investment and smart people," Tory told reporters following the speech, according to CP24.
"The city will start to strangle itself on things like congestion, we won’t achieve our environmental objectives and people won’t have an adequate and affordable place to live. Those are results for the city that I am not willing to accept."
When the city building levy was first introduced back in 2017, according to the Toronto Star, it was originally set to increase by 0.5 per cent each year for a period of five years, after which it would cap off at a cumulative 2.5 per cent.
Tory is now proposing that be changed entirely.
With city council's approval, he intends to implement increases of 1 per cent in 2020 and 2021 and 1.5 per cent in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 to attain the cumulative increase of 10.5 per cent.
The newfound funding would go toward, but not entirely cover, $24 billion in unfunded TTC state-of-good repair project, new subway cars, streetcars, signal systems and station upgrades.
Tory said the money is also needed in order to build the 40,000 new promised affordable housing units over the next 10 years.
The levy increase would cost homeowners a total of $43 a year at first, but that number would likely increase into the hundreds once it's been fully implemented over the 10 year period.
As is common when the subject of a tax hike surfaces, residents of Toronto have fairly polarized views on the subject.
Many, like city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, believe it's an important step to improve the city.
"After years of holding taxes at the rate of inflation and watching infrastructure, housing and TTC crumble - new thinking may finally be emerging from the Mayor. It's long overdue and I say good on Mayor Tory and all who have been advocating for this," she said.
This move won't immediately help those stuck on crowded subway platforms or left in the cold without adequate shelter. However, after a decade of extreme austerity, this gesture is finally headed in the right direction.— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) December 4, 2019
"As a new homeowner, I groaningly welcome the property tax increase. But I direct my groans at the inflated costs of housing in Toronto, not the much-needed improvements to our transit system," one Toronto resident added.
But others aren't quite so pleased.
"May I ask why it seems frequently drop on the heads of home owners? Many of us are struggling to keep in our homes. Drivers absorb extra costs through gas taxes. I'm not trying to be cold but shouldn't the people using transit be paying the costs?" one homeowner wrote on Twitter.
"Hmm. I don't agree that property tax should be raised in Toronto. It's far too high to begin with," another wrote.
But despite the classic complainers, most residents appear to be in favour of the hike considering the fact that Toronto pays extremely low property taxes compared to other Ontario municipalities.
"As one of the most successful cities in the world, we must take action in order to continue to invest in our transit system and in affordable housing. That is why at the next city council meeting I will be asking to extend the City Building Fund further into the future," Tory said.
"I believe City Council is ready to move forward as well and I am confident that this is the best way forward to protect Toronto’s prosperity which - given our economic power and the need for that prosperity to continue - is good for our city, our province and our country."
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