ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Housing, a call to ban airbnb and a demand to ‘open King Street’
Published Monday, May 1, 2023 5:32PM EDT
It was another busy Monday on the campaign trail in Toronto. Housing was top of mind for many of the candidates.
Rob Davis said Monday he’d open more spaces in the rental market by banning Airbnb in the city. Doing so, he claimed, would bring back 20,000 rental units to the market.
He said Toronto tenants have been forced to take part in “The Hunger Games” to find a place to live, referring to Toronto’s low vacancy rates and rising rents.
Davis said he could reduce rates with the stroke of a pen by banning the popular service, which allows people to rent out their homes for short-term stays.
Airbnb has faced close scrutiny over the past few years and was ultimately brought into regulation when the city launched a new short-term rental framework in 2021.
Currently, people renting their homes or rooms on a short-term basis (less than 28 days) are required to register with the city and collect and remit a six per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) on all rentals. Short-term rentals are also only allowed at a person’s primary residence.
Ana Bailao released her housing plan Monday, saying she would “urgently build more homes, create pathways out of homelessness, and protect residents and renters who have homes today.”
Her plan would include a commitment to ensure that 20 per cent of all new homes built by 2031 are purpose-built rental homes. She said she would also establish a special city unit to prevent displacement and evictions, temporarily freeze new proposals that would demolish rental apartment buildings, and expand the Dufferin Grove pilot project citywide to create "pathways out of homelessness."
She said her plan would build 285,000 new homes, with at least 57,000 of them purpose-built rental, and would support at least 95,000 vulnerable residents.
She pegged the cost at $48.5 million and said it would come from the city-building fund.
Bailao also took a swipe at some of her rivals, saying “housing experts” have told her that Josh Matlow’s plan will cost 10 times more than expected.
She called fellow candidate Mark Saunders "the premier’s preferred candidate" and said that he is trying to convince people that safety is the only issue in the election.
“Well, let me tell you the fact is if you don't have a credible plan on housing, you don't have a credible plan on safety,” Bailao said.
She added: “You don't need Doug Ford as both our premier and as our mayor, backseat-driving our city.”
She also took aim at Olivia Chow, who has been polling in the lead recently, saying that she is running against both the province and federal government and calling the revenue projections in her housing plan "inaccurate.”
“I am the only candidate, the only candidate in this election who is up to the task, who has the solution, who has a proven track record to get it done,” Bailao said.
Chow hit back, releasing a statement saying that Bailao’s plan won’t work because there’s no new money in it to build new housing and the city-building fund is meant for capital costs rather than the operating money that would be required.
“Bailao’s trying to pull a fast one when people need housing, not more empty promises from the same person who got us in this mess,” the statement read, adding it “isn’t much of a plan.”
Meanwhile Anthony Furey released another proposal, this one aimed at mitigating the effects of shutting down a busy stretch of Queen Street for at least five years.
In a release, the mayoral candidate says he “demands city hall open King Street” to through-traffic and at least temporarily close the Adelaide and Richmond bike lanes for the duration of the Ontario Line construction.
The King Street Transit Priority Corridor is designed to speed up the city’s busiest surface transit route, the King Streetcar line, which carries roughly 84,000 riders on an average weekday, according to the city.
The route was often nightmarishly slow before traffic was restricted between Bathurst and Jarvis. Furey did not say how he would ensure that transit continues to flow smoothly.
He did say he would also allow regular street parties, outdoor performances, farmers’ markets and festivals on evenings and weekends on the closed portion of Queen Street and said he doesn’t want to see the area “become a wasteland for the next five years.”
Also thinking about transit, Mitzie Hunter said Monday she’ll help realize the city’s planned Waterfront East LRT if elected.
“This is an urgent project that will facilitate greater housing density in the Port Lands and reduce gridlock along the waterfront while connecting to downtown,” Hunter said.
She said the city’s one-third share of the estimated $2 billion cost will be moved into a dedicated fund from existing transit capital reserves.
The project is still in the design and costing phase.
“Only Mark Saunders can stop Olivia Chow,” Saunders said in a tweet, citing a new poll from Liaison Strategies. Released Monday, the poll placed Saunders at 20 per cent support and Chow at 26 per cent support among decided voters.
It placed Josh Matlow at 19 per cent support and Brad Bradford and Mitzie Hunter at 10 per cent each. Ana Bailao stood at seven per cent, while Anthony Furey stood at three per cent and Anthony Perruzza at one per cent.
The poll, which surveyed 1,253 voters over April 28-29, asked respondents who they would vote for if the election were held today.
It’s considered accurate results to within plus or minus 2.76 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.