Lord of the slums
The Golden Cockroach, the dubious award presented by the Parkdale Tenants Association (PTA) to the city's worst slumlord, is being handed instead this year to Mayor David Miller and provincial Housing Minister John Gerretsen.
Gerretsen gets the honour for breaking a promise to repeal the Tenant Protection Act that the PTA says is skewering tenants.
Miller's is for giving in to what the PTA calls "media-induced hysteria" and firing licensing head Pam Coburn, who the group says was doing a good job of keeping negligent landlords in check.
"We had a lot of success with Pam Coburn," says PTA spokesperson Max Wallace. "She personally intervened with tenants where her own staff weren't doing their jobs."
After last year's Cockroach was awarded at 40 and 60 Tyndall Avenue, Wallace says Coburn put inspectors out to assess the needed repairs.
Miller spoksesperson Brendan Agnew-Iler says the mayor had nothing to do with Coburn's firing, but does point out that $160 million is being spent by the city on affordable housing "thanks to the efforts of the mayor. So to say that the mayor hasn't said a peep- he has done a lot."
The city plans to launch a website next month that tenants can access to find outstanding work orders at a particular address. A good start, the PTA says, but what the group really want is for the city to license apartment buildings, which the city will have the power to do once the New City Of Toronto Act is fully adopted.
Wallace estimates that tens of thousands of tenants, many of them immigrants, are currently living in rundown rental units.
Gerretsen, meanwhile, says the province has been too busy working on other pieces of legislation to turn its attention to a new Tenant Protection Act, expected sometime in the new year.
"We want to make sure we get it right," he says.
Gould revamp snag
Next year's frosh mob at Ryerson might be able to proudly march down Gould Street in beer helmets without having to dodge SUVs if the campus planning department gets its way.
Ryerson says it's dangerous for students to cross on that particular strip because of high traffic volumes and has been trying to get the city to agree to turn it into a pedestrian-only zone. Finally the city is seriously studying the proposal.
The big obstacle, however, lies with the Metropolis development on the northeast corner of Yonge and Dundas, which was supposed to be completed in 2001 but is still under construction. The city told Manuel Ravinsky, Ryerson's facilities and capital planner, that any traffic-calming initiatives will have to wait until the developer finishes building.
Ravinsky says accidents are a regular occurrence on Gould and worries that truck traffic from the development will add congestion. Changes need to be made now. "It's such a mess there," says Ravinsky.
A meeting planned for Monday, November 14, with the city fell through. But Ryerson's consultants are continuing to work on plans that in the short-term include speed bumps, traffic signals and raised intersections.
Says Jacqueline White, manager of traffic operations for the city, "It's best to first consider what the issue is that we're trying to solve and then to look at alternatives, because closing the street is the most severe [option]."
Until then, students will have to keep looking both ways.
But Cameron Barker, who works for both the Ryerson Working Students' Centre and the Students' Union, says a pedestrian-only zone is the only sensible solution. It's what Ryerson needs, he says, to create more of a campus atmosphere.
"The street is so narrow. It's heavily used by pedestrians and students and really serves no purpose to vehicles," says Barker. "A better use would be as a pedestrian thoroughfare and communal meeting place with benches, trees and landscaping, instead of the dangerous roadway it is now."
Toronto Housing Facts
552,300 - number of people living in poverty in Toronto*
250,000 - number of households paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent
71,000 - number of households on city waiting list for affordable housing
31,985 - number of people who stayed in a Toronto shelter at least once in 2002
9 - percentage by which food bank use increased in two years after introduction of the Tenant Protection Act
*based on Statistics Canada low-income cut-off
Source: Parkdale Tenants Association