Some Toronto homeowners are calling for higher property taxes to fund transit and shelters

Toronto house seen in winter (Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Jason Ng)

An open letter signed by over 120 Toronto homeowners is calling on city council to raise property taxes beyond the proposed 5.5 per cent rate included in the 2023 budget, “as a way to more equitably fund essential public services, like the TTC and shelters — not to fund police.”

This comes just days after the city released data showing 2022 held the second-highest record of deaths in Toronto’s shelter system. 

“We are coming together to say that as homeowners, we want to pay higher property taxes so that we and our neighbours can access the services we all need to thrive in this city,” reads the letter. “We believe that increases in inequality are a direct result of decisions city council has made over the last several years. They have chosen to keep tax increases below inflation, while, at the same time, choosing to increase an already bloated police budget.”

One of the organizers of the campaign, Brittaney Caron, is a 33-year-old therapist who owns a home in Ward 19, Beaches-East York. 

She says she understands this proposal may sound controversial to some who feel they can not afford an additional hike in taxes, but says the proposed increase works out to just an extra $233 per year. 

She also notes there are options for homeowners to defer or ask for relief if they’re unable to pay the full amount. 

“A program exists where certain folks can apply for deferral or relief of property taxes, especially focusing on fixed income or seniors,” Caron said to Now Toronto on Monday. “So we do know that there are people who bought their houses for $100,000, 40 years ago or 50 years ago and are now living on fixed incomes, but there are resources for those people to defer.”

She says residents of the city at large are in agreement that services should be more accessible when discussing hiking fees to the TTC.

“This is probably going to be more controversial, but, ‘feeling like you can’t afford it…’ What does that mean?” she asks. “When we talk about the fact that the average homeowner will pay an extra $233 a year, that’s barely $20 a month.”

She also notes a lack of accessible programming for families, and says paying out of pocket for services like private programming works out to be “way more than $20.”

“I’m a parent, and I cannot get my kid into a city program. The programs are like $40 for ten swim classes, and I’ll pay like $300 for that if I go into the private options, so the payoff for actually having well funded city services is worth that money.”

Caron says property taxes are meant to be paying for services to make them more affordable for everyone. 

“A quarter of our property taxes go towards the police budget, and we firmly believe that that should not be the case… If this was used properly by the city council, you would probably end up seeing the benefits of that somewhere else.”

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