Toronto Mayor John Tory was the opening keynote speaker at the RICS Summit Series Americas 2018 stop in Toronto. This was his second speaking engagement with RICS Summit of the Americas, the previous one was in 2014 when he was a mayoral candidate. Much has changed in the intervening four years and the Mayor was open about his experience in office, showing at times pride, frustration and determination to move steadily forward.
Tory spoke proudly of Toronto’s reputation as a friendly hub of immigration and a place of opportunity. “We welcome people from around the world. We integrate them peacefully. We embrace them as they come,” he said.
But the rapid growth the city has undergone requires supportive infrastructure, transit and affordable housing. Historically, he explained, the city has suffered because of a failure to invest at the pace of growth.
The most urgent challenge Tory listed was the drastic shortage of affordable housing and this, he said, was the heart of the polarization between the haves and the havenots in the city. His vision is for a city where people of all economic means are able to afford housing.
“There are many people who work in a company who don’t command the income to afford to live in a city like this.” He gave the example of someone who earns a salary of $50,000. Housing outside of the city is more affordable but the cost in time and money of commuting into the city from the suburbs, makes this option unacceptable to people with families or other commitments.
“We have to find new and more ingenious ways to form partnerships,” he proposed. “I don’t think the government should be in the business of building and running affordable housing. Our job is to provide incentives to make it and approve affordable rental housing plans.”
Some of the ideas he proposed is to eliminate land costs by leasing it for a nominal cost, supplying tax or financial incentives to encourage the private sector to build mixed use developments. But he stressed the need to move forward quickly.
“I’d be happy to hear input from this meeting about P3s,” he said to the crowd of RICS-qualified professionals. “I’m all ears to hearing a way to get these things done. We need to catch up and keep up."
Tory emphasised his willingness to make decisions that come with an element of risk, to try something different with the help of technology, implement transit plans that won’t get abandoned with a change in government, step up affordable housing and modernize the way government functions.
“There are neighbourhoods in the city that are not what they should be in the quality of housing, access to transit. That’s what we need to manage to keep this city healthy,” he stressed. “My objective is to make decisions today to make sure we’re the most liveable city in the world in 25 years.”
To accomplish this task, he stressed the importance of working closely with the private sector to do the right thing in a bolder way and move quickly rather than getting bogged down in the process. “Any advice I could get from you is most welcome advice indeed.”
Writer and Media Relations
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