Hume: It’s time Toronto gave condo dwellers a little respect ––toronto-ignores-condo-owners

Hume: It’s time Toronto gave condo dwellers a little respect –

Condo dwellers get no respect in this city. Though they have taken over Toronto and brought new life to even its most benighted corner, they are routinely ignored, even scorned.

Municipal power is so skewed in favour of traditional single-family homeowners, the condo dweller barely stands a chance. At best, they figure as a statistic, a cause of congestion, crowded sidewalks, and tall buildings that shadow kids’ playgrounds.

The most obvious example of how the city overlooks this fast-growing but invisible population is transit, which in Toronto, the only place it actually makes sense, is 25 years behind the civilized world.

Instead of building the much-delayed downtown relief line to handle existing urban densities, we expand subways to the parking lots of Vaughan.

Just this week the TTC announced it had set yet another ridership record; the system has provided 510 million rides since October 2011, with 514 million expected in the next year.

Yet paralysis persists. By now it’s clear our fear of committing to transit is pathological. We have all but forgotten how to do anything other than bicker while we await the next report.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak provided a textbook case last week when he announced that he supported subway, not LRTs, which he’d be happy to pay for “when funds are available.”

That sort of promise is no promise at all. It isn’t even meant to be. It’s code for, “Don’t worry, we’ll help get streetcars off the clogged streets of Toronto.”

Not surprisingly, Mayor Rob Ford has done the most to reverse the course of transit. He was elected, of course, largely by homeowners. It was to them Ford spoke on election night 2010, when he declared, “The war on the car is over.”

The last thing on his mind — or council’s — were the countless thousands who live in condos so they don’t have to drive two or three hours to work every day, so they can walk and bike, eat in the restaurants, shop in stores, ride the TTC and generally enjoy a 21st-century urban life.

They are the future of Canada, let alone Toronto, and yet we are barely aware of them, let alone sensitive to their needs. Councillors consider them a nuisance and, once condo dwellers couple up and have kids, developers lose interest in them.

But who can blame the politicians? One of the few councillors who does live in a condo, Pam McConnell, was vilified by Ford’s media proxies on bogus charges of collusion and favouritism in her purchase.

The attack on McConnell said much about attitudes to condos and the people who inhabit them. Would the same response have ensued had she bought a single-family house at the end of a greenfield cul-de-sac?

At the same time, NIMBYism runs rampant. On Ossington, where misguided locals are fighting a six-storey condo project that would replace a used-car lot, it has reached the point of self-destructiveness. It is an appalling spectacle, a civic embarrassment.

Similarly, removing the Jarvis St. bike lanes to please the good burghers of Moore Park reveals them for the dinosaurs they are. Yet council has bent over backwards, squandered hard-earned taxpayer dollars and dented Toronto’s international reputation to accommodate the noisy Parkers’ demands. They are clearly more important than the condo-dwellers (and students) farther south who will have to bear the brunt of Toronto’s retreat into civic infantilism.

Official Toronto’s failure to embrace the most obvious result of its extraordinary urbanization has been singular. All cities have detractors, but unlike Toronto, most aren’t their own worst enemy.

Christopher Hume can be reached at chume

Brandon Lee Cell 416-471-0353, HL/Bayview


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