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Everything is Broken

In his column yesterday in The Toronto Star, Ed Keenan wrote about the massive tax increase assessed against the arts building at 401 Richmond. Full disclosure: I’m represented for my paintings by an art dealer in that building – yumart – and my work has been featured there.

This building was bought for $150,000 back in 1994 when nobody wanted it amidst a decaying garment district.

Keenan: In 2012, the property tax bill for the whole building was $446,689. In 2020, when the latest assessment is phased in, it will be $1,286,800. If I’m doing my math right, that means the assessors say the building is now worth just under $50 million.

The owner of the building has turned the space into among the most vital destination arts spaces in the City. That will never do, will it? In this country, not many people get rich making or selling art or operating other arts related ventures. I have personal experience with that – I held a day job for 30 years to support my art habit. You would not believe the number of people who continue to ask me what kind of job I’m looking for next – they simply don’t assign any value at all to an art-making activity.

Now the tax man wants to collect based on the potential value of 401 Richmond – if its value was maximized as for instance, a condo development. How interesting. We have a tendency to look at the sprawling and seemingly uncontrolled condo development on the west side downtown as driven by the development industry but this is a case in which the City is driving that kind of land use by its tax structure.

Keenan suggests in his column that the province should step in: “It is up to provincial policy-makers to fix this — and looking at what 401 Richmond has given to the city, and continues to give, it’s clear that it should, and soon”. That would be fantastic, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen. After all, the province is responsible for the Ontario Municipal Board who continue to make decisions supporting over-development at the expense of community character across the City.

When 401 Richmond is gone, people will lament its loss but it will be too little too late. Sometimes it seems that everything is broken.


On the subject of Everything is Broken, I heard on the news this morning that the Toronto Transit Commission are going to introduce undercover operatives to nab those ne’er-do-wells who ride transit without paying their fares. The current enforcement guys wear bright yellow outfits. I’ve been told when they show up on a street car people rush up to the machine to pay their fare.

The TTC has around 80 fare inspectors according to The Star + a mystery number of undercover officers to come. I don’t know the cost of enforcement but it must be over $3 million per year for that many people. There are also admin staff to consider. Meanwhile, the same news source has reported that too many Presto readers are failing.

If you have to spend that kind of money on enforcement (and yes fares continue to go up), there has to be a better system, and I hope the TTC is trying to come up with one.  I suggested in a recent post that we take a close look at paying for transit through taxes rather than on a pay per use basis. If you are not expected to pay when you board a street car, there is no need to spend any money at all on fare enforcement.


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