In December, Toronto City Council approved an increase to the City Building Levy that will raise an estimated $6.6 billion for new TTC upgrades and repairs and affordable housing.
The current levy of 0.5% annually, will increase to 1.5% in 2020 and 2021. An additional 1.5% annual increase will continue until 2025.
This is not a vote that John took lightly.
By law, cities in Ontario must apply a uniform property tax rate to the values of properties as assessed by MPAC. The system is highly problematic — especially for us in Willowdale where property values have risen quickly and significantly above the Toronto average.
Not only does it create discrepancies between neighbourhoods where similar size homes/properties pay dramatically different rates for the same services, but it also assumes that those living in a high-value home could afford to purchase it at its current value. For a senior living on a fixed income that purchased a home 40 years prior, this is often not the case.
For that reason, John has supported “at or below inflation” increases to the City’s tax rate over the past many years. But he’s also been mindful that this isn’t sustainable as City reserves have been raided to balance the budget and progress on key priorities (such as transit and housing) has been slow.
John has endorsed several “user fees” over the years to create a more equitable playing field — and will continue to do so.
Unfortunately, most of the bigger ticket, and most effective revenue tools — such as a municipal sales tax — are not permitted by Ontario law. Similarly, the Province has blocked road tolling on City highways while other tools have been gridlocked in City Council debate.
For some time, Council has needed to do a long hard look at what is possible. If we want to see progress on transit and housing, Council needed to generate revenue beyond just “keeping even with inflation.” The levy seemed a reasonable and moderate measure to meet these critical city-building priorities.
Until the Provincial government allows a more equitable system, allows the diversification of revenue streams or plays a larger role in funding regional priorities, this seemed the only remaining responsible course of action — though John did certainly view it as a last resort.
The increase is expected to cost the average Toronto household an estimated $45 per year, or approximately $280 over six years.
The City Building Levy is listed on property tax bills.