Chow says tax hike will be lowered for some Toronto properties to make sure renters don’t see big increases

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says renters can expect a move that will help prevent big rent increases when she tables her version of the city budget later this week.

Speaking to the Canadian Club at a downtown luncheon Monday, Chow said she plans to follow a recommendation from the Budget Committee to lower the proposed property tax increase for multi-residential dwellings “below the threshold to prevent above-guideline rent increases.”

The staff-proposed budget released earlier this month recommends a nine per cent property tax increase as well as a 1.5 per cent bump to the city-building fund.

Chow said that in order to prevent landlords from using higher property taxes as a reason to seek above-guideline rent increases, the property tax increase for multi-residential dwellings will need to be less than half that proposed for the rest of the homes in the city.

“In order to not have a dramatic increase — in fact that landlords cannot apply for above-guideline increases — it needs to be below 3.75 per cent. That’s the threshold, so that’s where it will be,” Chow said.

She said that figure represents the maximum for the property tax increase and city-building fund increase combined.

It could be lower, but the the exact figure is still being worked out with city staff, she said.

“City staff is calculating the details. But I can say to you today that we will lower the thresholds so that renters will not pay a big increase,” Chow told reporters. “Landlords would not be able to use that as an excuse to push up the rent increase.”

She said renters in the city are already having a hard enough time paying for housing. 

The move was one of the items recommended by the Budget Committee to Chow on Friday following further public consultations.

“You will find out in three days,” Chow said when asked how she will pay for the property tax break for renters.

The mayor is set to table her version of the budget, incorporating feedback from the Budget Committee, by Thursday.

The staff-proposed budget released Jan. 10 also included a recommendation for an additional six per cent levy if the federal government did not agree to provide the city with $250 million a year to help house refugees and asylum-seekers. With the clock ticking, Chow said Monday that she’s still not sure whether she will have a commitment from the federal government before she tables her budget.

“We don’t know. We shall see. Three days is a long time in a political life,” Chow said. “We’ve asked this question quite a few times.”

She reiterated during her speech that the city cannot make up for the drastic budget shortfall without help from higher levels of government

“We face a $1.8 billion financial hole,” Chow said. “We cannot cut our way out of this mess. We can’t, there’s just no way to do it.”

She said doing so would accelerate the decline of the transit system and damage the city’s ability to provide affordable housing.  

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