Your need-to-know guide to this week’s council meeting.
City Council will convene today for a meeting that could decide the fate of Airbnb in Toronto. Other agenda items to watch? A plan to add badly needed spaces to the city’s homeless shelter system, a SmartTrack update, and the feasibility of Rail Deck Park. Read on for everything you need to know about this month’s meeting.
Watch out, Airbnb
- Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director Tracy Cook is no doubt bracing for a long day of grandstanding masquerading as questions. That’s because council will finally be considering a new set of proposed rules for short-term rentals including Airbnb.
- The rule likely to attract the most attention? One that would ban short-term rentals of homes that aren’t the landlord’s primary dwelling (meaning condo-renters looking to make some extra cash would be out of luck.)
- Expect a strong endorsement of the rules from downtown councillors grappling with so-called “ghost hotels” and condemnation from pro-business councillors arguing that Torontonians should be allowed to use the online rental platform to make an extra buck.
Other Big Ticket Items
- Mayor John Tory made a hurried announcement over the weekend that he wants 400 new spaces for Toronto’s homeless population created before the cold weather hits. The announcement comes as a report recommending the creation of 1,000 new beds makes it way to council. The report also reiterates a standard of 90 per cent shelter occupancy. City statistics show that 95 per cent of 1,305 motel beds used by the city to house homeless people were occupied last month.
- A SmartTrack update is here, but missing some crucial information — namely, how much it would actually cost. Staff is now saying that a financial update won’t arrive until the second quarter of 2018, to the frustration of many.
- As soon as the concept of Rail Deck Park was announced, there were naysayers clamouring to know how it would be funded. Staff provides some possible solutions here, but several (read: provincial and federal contributions) seem unlikely to actually materialize anytime soon.
- As the city works on initiatives to cut its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, there’s also concern about traffic-related air pollution as its population swells. This report calls for some best practices.
- Speaking of reducing emissions, the development of low-carbon thermal energy networks could be a step in the right direction. (The term, sure to confuse a councillor or two, encompasses technology such as sewer heat recovery and solar thermal collectors).
- At least 70 people died on Toronto’s streets in 2017, an average of 1.7 a week. The staggering number is likely even higher than stated, due to underreporting. The Toronto Political Advocacy Committee is suggesting a Homeless Management Information System to allow shelter staff to collect better data which would allow them to respond to the community’s needs at a faster rate.
- A report is seeking approval to allocate provincial funds to Covenant House in order to support human trafficking survivors.
- There is a proposal for the city’s first Indigenous Affairs Office. It would exist within the City Manager’s office, and include a staff of four.
- Additionally, council is being asked to approve an action plan to combat anti-black racism, which would allocate funds for community partnerships, and create up to five staff positions within the city manager’s office.
- Much as has been said about the notion of “enhanced” security measures at city hall, which could include metal detectors at main entrances. Now, all of council will get a chance to weigh in.