Security tells mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa to leave city square mid-announcement

·3 min read
Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa announced his housing platform Wednesday morning in front of city hall. About half an hour into the event, city security asked him to leave the premises.  (Susan Goodspeed/CBC - image credit)
Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa announced his housing platform Wednesday morning in front of city hall. About half an hour into the event, city security asked him to leave the premises. (Susan Goodspeed/CBC - image credit)

Gil Penalosa, one of John Tory's main challengers for mayor in the upcoming municipal election, has released a housing platform that he says will deliver more affordable homes for Torontonians.

But while unveiling that platform in front of city hall Wednesday morning, city security asked him to leave.

"A formal media event with structures was being conducted on Nathan Phillips Square, which is not permitted," tweeted city spokesperson Brad Ross.

Ross said while informal media scrums on the square are allowed during election periods, formal events with microphones, speakers and signs aren't.

Penalosa used a microphone during his announcement and moved to a nearby sidewalk to finish his remarks at security's request, before being asked to leave again.

Penalosa's campaign says rules are being unfairly applied.

"The Mayor has done campaign announcements on city property recently," said spokesperson Diana Chan McNally, in a statement.

"It's reasonable to assume his primary competitor would be afforded the same opportunity."

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Tory campaign spokesperson Jenessa Crognali said Tory follows all campaign rules as set out by the city, and his campaign is "very careful when selecting sites for our announcements."

Housing platform reveal

Susan Goodspeed/CBC
Susan Goodspeed/CBC

Housing affordability is among the issues expected to dominate the municipal election slated for Monday, Oct. 24. Despite recent drops due in part to higher interest rates, the average price of a detached single-family home in Toronto remains well above $1.5 million, according to the most recent MLS Home Price index.

The average price of a condo in the city is nearly $780,000, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is more than $2,200 per month.

Penalosa is a well-known urbanist and the founder of the Canadian non-profit organization 8 80 Cities. He says his plan will create a total of 1.9 million new homes, exceed Toronto's housing targets for the next 50 years and eliminate the need to pave over green space and agricultural land.

Breaking down Penalosa's housing platform

The first part of Penalosa's plan includes building 100,000 affordable units on city-owned land.

Two thirds of the units would be affordable by the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation's standards, at an average market rate of $1,157 to $1,446.

The last third would be "deep affordable" housing listed at 30 per cent of income for those on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, with rents from $400 to $600.

To achieve this, Penalosa proposes allowing development on all public land where possible, including parking lots, libraries and community centres. He says the city could also work with provincial and federal governments to use more government land, such as LCBOs and Canada Posts.

Another part of his plan includes ending single-family exclusionary zoning across the city. This, he says, would allow homeowners to renovate and construct new units while largely avoiding the often lengthy and costly approval processes involved in re-zoning.

Penalosa says he also hopes to incentivize construction with no fees or development charges for the next five years, and ensure there's one affordable unit for every three units created.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Another part of the plan includes legalizing and promoting multi-tenant homes, which has been a contentious issue at council meetings in recent years.

He says these units are "urgently needed" by homeless people, students, those on fixed incomes and temporary and low-income workers.

Comparing Tory and Penalosa's housing platforms

Last month, Tory released his own housing platform that aims to build "more types of housing in more neighbourhoods" in the city. It included five main pillars to tackle housing affordability and supply.

Penalosa and Tory both promise to reform zoning rules and to create a position or division at city hall dedicated to streamlining development.

However, Tory's plan differs by calling for a "use it or lose it" standard for land owned by private developers, allocating a portion of city-owned land to non-profits to construct affordable and supportive housing, and incentivizing purpose-built rental housing by reducing fees.