The new North York Women’s Shelter is almost ready to open

The North York Women’s Shelter has released ground-breaking news – they will have a brand new facility come Autumn 2019. During the closure of the former site, residents have been relocated to other locations or have found long-term housing accommodations. Upon the launch of the new facility, women and children will be gradually transitioned into the space in order to bring the shelter back to full capacity and best serve the local community.

The facility will be 24,000 sq. ft. in size, with an abundant amount of windows installed to allow for natural lighting throughout the building. The reception and intake area has been envisioned to instill a calm atmosphere, with comfortable furnishings and soft music set to play in the background. There will be a secondary entrance for visitors and those looking to inquire for more information about the space.

Numerous lounges have been integrated into the floor plan of the facility. These lounges are large enough to both accommodate and encourage a social atmosphere and overall sense of community. The kitchen and dining room area have been specifically designed for a communal purpose. Residents will be encouraged to cook for themselves as well as eat together at each meal. The notion of supporting one another through routine and open spaces is integral to the health and wellbeing of the residents. There will also be a sufficient amount of counsellors to provide additional advice, provisions and referrals. In addition to providing refuge and treatment, the aim of the programs that will be offered will be to break the cycle of violence and spread awareness to the community.

In terms of outdoor space, there will be a fenced-in garden and BBQ area in place for the enjoyment of the residents. Women can watch their children play together while they relax in a secluded space together.

The initial capacity of the building will be 30 people distributed between 17 bedrooms. Each bedroom will have a private bathroom for the sake of further ease and contentment. The 30 count includes both women and dependent children who will be utilizing beds, but not toddlers and newborns, as they will be provided with their own cribs. The maximum capacity for the new facility will be 40 people.

Another prominent feature of the new shelter is the pet lounge, which will be situated in the basement. Allowing women and children to bring their pets with them assists with the transition into the facility and into future accommodations. Pets and support animals offer emotional fulfillment and familiarity.

The new North York Women’s Shelter will serve as a benchmark for future housing designs and projects. The new facility will cost $12 million to construct, with $9 million secured and an additional $3 million remaining to be solidified through fundraising efforts. The Rotary Club of North York is a key stakeholder and donor for this project, having gifted the largest donation in the club’s history.

Toronto’s Budget update

On March 7, Toronto City Council approved a $13 billion operating budget for 2019. Despite motions from particular councillors to further raise or add new taxes, Council voted in favour of increasing property taxes strictly by the rate of inflation. This means that there will be a 2.55% property tax hike for homeowners.

This year’s budget also confirmed $162 million in funding for the TTC to accelerate the construction of the downtown relief subway line by two years, as well as $30 million towards the Toronto Police Service, part of which will be allocated towards hiring 300 new police officers. In addition to property taxes, homeowners will face a 3% increase to their water rates and a 2.2% increase to their garbage costs. Despite pushback from riders, TTC fares will be raised by 10 cents.

Toronto will move ahead with a Housing Now plan that is set to build 10,000 more units on 11 surplus, city-owned cites. Toronto Community Housing will also be receiving $195 million towards priority repairs, but with the total repair bill expected to reach $3 billion by 2028, many housing advocates are worried that this year’s allocation simply won’t be enough.

While funding is being promised in many areas, much of it is unconfirmed or deemed insufficient. Councillor Perks put forth a motion to increase property taxes by an additional 2% to help boost services for Toronto’s most vulnerable and assist with more investments in crumbling infrastructure, but his motion was voted down. Councillor Layton put forth a motion to bring back the vehicle registration tax to help pay for better transit, road safety and maintenance efforts like snow clearing, but that was also voted down.

Devika Shah, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto said that “it’s very, very clear that the city does have a major revenue problem and we need to look at not just small property tax increases on those of us that can afford it, but a number of other creative revenue tools to build a city that works.” Debates about revenue tools and taxes continue to divide councillors, but the fact of the matter is, someone needs to pay for the City’s shortfalls.

Back in January, the federal government promised $114.7 million in additional funding to help cover the costs associated with housing refugees across the country. While the City’s budget passed, it was only approved based on the assumption that Toronto will receive $45 million out of the proposed $114.7 million from the federal Liberal government. Ultimately, Toronto needs $45 million in funding to balance the budget and house asylum seekers. Supports from other layers of government are necessary in order to move ahead because our city cannot operate on a deficit.

Many councillors are concerned about a total of $79 million dollars worth of funding holes in the current budget, so while no cuts are underway, the services that Torontonians rely on are at risk. Unconfirmed funding means that many of the promises that have been made in the 2019 budget might not carry through as expected.

With the federal budget unfolding this spring and an imminent federal election taking place this fall, other party leaders in Ottawa will have an opportunity to pitch their funding promises to municipalities, including Toronto. One thing is for sure, Toronto would benefit from sufficient investments at the federal level. The needs are great and low-income earners cannot carry the weight on their shoulders.

State of Toronto’s 2019 budget

Our city faces many challenges, like affordable housing, strained infrastructure, climate change and social inequity. Our municipal government at City Hall has a responsibility to stay on top of these ongoing challenges by restructuring elements of Toronto’s budget. City Council must find ways to secure income and funding in order to provide us with the services that we need and rely on.

The City’s budget committee has approved a $13.46 billion operating budget for 2019. This year’s budget includes a 2.55% property tax increase, a 3% water rate increase, and a 10-cent TTC fare-hike.

Budget Chief, Councillor Gary Crawford, highlights that the 2019 budget operates without cuts to services and makes substantial investments in transit, policing and other important initiatives. Other councillors, including Councillor Mike Layton, don’t foresee the proposed budget rectifying issues effectively enough to sustain the growing needs of people throughout Toronto.

Layton says, “We need bolder solutions and a break from the status quo.” Layton also notes he would challenge other councillors to make the necessary investments in services like winter road maintenance – which is popular among many Torontonians after recent snowstorms.

The idea of building a prosperous city for everyone has become a guiding principle in the budgeting process, but that needs to be a reality supported by numbers.

While allocating more towards the TTC is critical for our future, the 10-cent fare hike will negatively impact many TTC riders – from students to seniors. TTC riders already pay some of the highest prices for transit in North America.  

The lack of affordable housing and homelessness are large issues here in Toronto. The City has reaffirmed its commitment to adding 1000 shelter beds by 2020, costing $62 million. Toronto Community Housing will be receiving $195 million towards priority repairs.

While these increases are seen as steps in the right direction, many demand more long-term investments in social housing, shelters and other supports in order to help alleviate the burden for those in need and Toronto’s record-high rents.

Many have either heard of or witnessed construction for the Basement Flooding Protection Program in their neighbourhood. This program provides the necessary upgrades to our sewer and watermain system to help ensure that we can handle heavy rainfall during serious storms. These upgrades further help to prevent basement flooding. This program costs $58 million and is one way that we can be better prepared for climate change at the municipal level.

Executive Committee must deliberate the budget before it moves ahead to be fully debated and finalized by the rest of City Council this month.

For more information, including a thorough breakdown and explanation of different elements of the budget, please visit: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/budget-finances/city-budget/