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700 Bay Street and 77 Gerrard Street West - Rental Housing Demolition and Conversion

At the November 12, 2015 meeting of Toronto and East York Community Council, an application at 700 Bay Street and 77 Gerrard Street West, known as Lucliff Place, to convert 22 three bedroom apartments to two bedroom apartments, and replace the three bedroom units with similar sized units as part of a related development application at the same address was adopted.  As part of the conversion process, City Staff recommended a tenant relocation and assistance package, negotiated with the developer for the benefit of tenants affected by the conversion. 

Throughout this process, I have heard from tenants at Lucliff Place who wanted more information about how the compensation package was created, and what forum can best address on-going concerns they have with the building, property management and/or landlord as a whole.  I will try to provide some clarity on these and other concerns.

 

Lucliff Place is a 25 storey apartment building extending from Bay Street to Elizabeth Street on the south side of Gerrard Street.  It currently contains 223 rental housing units, as well as office and retail space.  An application was submitted to the City of Toronto in December 2014 to re-zone and construct a second 45 storey purpose built rental building as an addition to the existing structure on the west side.

 

The original proposal was not supported by City Planning or myself, but was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by the applicant.  In order to avoid a likely loss at the OMB, a settlement on the re-zoning application was reached in July, 2015 and adopted by City Council.  This is the unfortunate reality of city planning in Ontario, where provincial law allows developers to remove planning decisions from local communities and put them in the hands of an opaque, quasi-judicial and provincially appointed OMB. 

 

When the City receives an application for demolition and/or conversion of 6 or more rental units, as is the case with Lucliff Place, Municipal Code Chapter 667 of the City of Toronto Act stipulates that the City can impose conditions on a demolition permit.  These conditions have to be similar in all similar cases, or they can be challenged in court. This is how the legal system works in Canada.

 

Therefore, in cases where tenants need to move for demolition or conversion as a result of direct impact, a tenant relocation and assistance plan is created, addressing the right of return to occupy a replacement unit at similar rents, the provision of alternative accommodation, and assistance to lessen the hardship of dislocation.  These protections are meant to assist tenants who are directly being relocated as part of an application.  Through this process, the City was able to negotiate a compensation package for the tenants of the 22 units being converted, and a few of the two-bedroom units that will also lose a window.  This secured a moving allowance, several months’ rent, the right of return, and enhanced allowances for vulnerable tenants.  The package negotiated by City Staff exceeds what is required by the provincially legislated Residential Tenancies Act.  Additionally, compensation was secured for tenants whose units are adjacent or close to to those units being demolished, rebates for loss of amenity space were obtained, and rent provisions ensuring the units remain rental were established.  Many of these additional benefits were secured by the City despite not being required by the Residential Tenancies Act. Lastly, the agreement with the developer secured certain construction mitigation provisions, such as the establishment of a respite room for tenants, a robust communication protocol, and limiting the hours of construction on Saturdays and to 5:00pm on weekdays.  The City negotiated communication protocol again goes beyond what is required by the Residential Tenancies Act, and the limiting of construction hours is stricter than what is normally permissible by Noise Bylaws. 

 

Through this process, other issues with the building have been raised by tenants, such as elevator access, asbestos, and other property standards related concerns.  It is important to note that while important, these issues cannot be addressed through the rental demolition agreement, but need to be reported to 311 and the Landlord-Tenant Board for investigation and enforcement.  Requests were made by some residents for rent freezes due to the impacts of construction.  While the City was able to negotiate rent reductions for the tenants directly, and most affected, City Councillors do not have the power to unilaterally enforce an across the board rent freeze for every individual tenant.  Similarly, requests to relocate all 223 tenants of Lucliff Place were unable to be met, as the legal requirement for the property owner extends only to assist tenants whose units are being directly converted. 

 

The tenant compensation package for Lucliff Place goes above and beyond what is legally required by the province.  Recognizing that the City’s purview is limited over tenant concerns, I am confident that City Council has done everything within its legal powers to ensure this package will provide a large measure of support for tenants both impacted by construction, and whose homes are being converted as part of this process.  For additional information not covered in this letter, please contact me directly at councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca, or my office at 416-392-7903.