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Toronto's new property tax subclass is a limited gesture but a first step toward the city we want

February 13, 2018 5:57 PM
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So it’s finally here, not exactly as hoped, ever so slightly diminished and on a short, one-year leash, but the city’s newly minted creative co-location property tax subclass is a landmark acknowledgement by our local government of what we’ve all watched helplessly for a decade or more: that the vast chasm that yawed open between what the market would bear and the burden borne by its citizens needs more than a little bridging.

We all know that this is a city that got far too expensive, far too quickly. The crises in affordable space are vast and touch every single sector of society.

The new tax class, which will lessen the property tax burden on commercial properties willing to sacrifice some revenue to foster local culture, is pinpoint-narrow: its 50 per cent tax break will apply only to a few dozen buildings citywide and in its solution lies another problem, the privileging of one kind of poverty over another — in particular one that adds to the gloss of any civic marketing campaign.

But let’s not lose sight of the broader value of the gesture, however limited it may be. In approving the creative co-location subclass, the city is saying publicly that it’s willing to take at last some action against the forces of the open market. Or, put another way, that an Apple Store is not the tide that lifts all boats, and that having a mix of uses, people and purpose — regardless of their rent-paying ability — is at the core of the city in which we want to live.


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