2020 could be a transformative year in Toronto. Here's what to expect at city hall
New year will be busy with transformative neighbourhood proposals
Last year, politics in Toronto were marked by tension.
There were threats of provincial cuts, tremendous uncertainty around future transit plans, and big questions about how to pay for the kind of big-picture, city-building projects that Toronto so desperately needs.
With the start of a new year here, many of these issues linger. And as the city enters a brave new decade, council is bracing for more challenges.
Housing plan rolling out
Housing affordability has long been a hot topic in Toronto, and that shows no signs of changing in 2020.
This year marks the start of the city's new decade-long, $23.4-billion housing plan that involves approving 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 new supportive units for vulnerable residents. An update on proposals gathered for the Housing Now program, which aims to use 11 city-owned sites for affordable development, is also expected early this year.
But getting shovels in the ground won't happen overnight. While the city is chipping in $8.5 billion, more cash is needed.
"I will be working hard with the other orders of government to ensure the entire plan is fully funded," Mayor John Tory has said.
One newly-confirmed housing boost coming is a federal-provincial partnership providing rent subsidies to low-income and marginalized residents including renters in Toronto.
Transit, road safety momentum
On the transit file, construction on the Eglinton Crosstown will be winding down, with the line set to open in 2021. Coun. Josh Matlow says that means it's time to zero-in on streetscape improvements and what the stretch will look like after years of upheaval.
He also hopes council pushes the province for more details on Premier Doug Ford's priority projects, including the Ontario Line, since there are many outstanding questions about the route, feasibility and station locations.
Getting around the city will change in a more concrete way next year as Vision Zero road safety improvements planned by council — including speed limit reductions on streets across the city — become more widespread.
There's also a council-backed bike lane pilot project on Danforth Avenue, between Broadview and Victoria Park avenues, that's expected to start in 2020.
"We need to move it forward," said Coun. Brad Bradford, who stressed that the project involves making the stretch safer for all road users.
New visions for neighbourhoods
Transformative neighbourhood proposals could be a key theme for 2020.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said one iconic downtown roadway in particular — Yonge Street — could be transformed with a safety focus, with recommendations set to come to council next summer.
"We have an opportunity to rethink, re-imagine, and ultimately redesign and reconstruct Yonge Street for the next 100 years," Wong-Tam said, "and that includes opportunities to widen the sidewalk to put pedestrian priority emphasis on this downtown portion."
There will also be updates on the city's ambitious Rail Deck Park concept early in the new year, and more consultations are expected for Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs proposal which, if approved by council this spring, could transform a nearly five-hectare site on the waterfront into a so-called "smart city."
Brace for bigger bills
With so many projects in the works, money will yet again be a central issue this year.
"The question was left, well, how do you pay for it?" Tory recently told CBC Toronto.
While Tory aims to keep property taxes tied to the rate of inflation, his plan to hike a special city building levy did get the green light from council this year.
That means homeowners will see an extra 1 per cent on their property tax bill in 2020, costing the average household an additional $45 annually. Increases will continue until 2025, all meant to raise billions to pay for transit and housing.
And that's not the only area where residents could be paying more, with rates for garbage collection expected to rise, thanks to rebate phase-outs.