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Newsletter #5

Modular Housing at 175 Cummer is NOT A DONE DEAL
Hello neighbours,
Hope everyone is staying safe. Apologies, we know it's been a while since our last newsletter. There is lots to update you on.... so grab your coffee and settle in for this read. In this issue we’ll be sharing information about new media coverage, the April 6th community meeting recording, examples of “misinformation” being circulated by the city, and explanation of the City process and MZO request with respect to this modular housing application. 
IN THE NEWS AGAIN
Voices of Willowdale was profiled again in the media a few weeks ago. The TRNTO reporter also interviewed Councillor Filion who said some pretty 'interesting' things. Read the article here. We’ve received numerous emails from community members who are very upset that Filion continues to say that these are just a ‘few angry’ voices who do not represent Willowdale and are ‘scaremongering’. Councillor Filion, we encourage you to not attack your own constituents. Also we are pretty sure Filion already knows this, but for the record, the VoW group has grown quickly and is supported by 1500+ community members of which the majority are Newtonbrook East neighbours who live within a 1km radius of 175 Cummer site. These voices certainly aren't just a few voices! Residents are saying this is beyond anti-democratic, it is Machiavellian to ignore and dismiss the hundreds of voices of residents who already live in this community.  Furthermore community members are being accused of  sharing “misinformation” when in reality it's the other way around. Questions are not being responded to, information is being purposely withheld by the city and LURA consultants, narratives are twisted and tightly controlled, and community members are being wrongfully accused of "demonizing the homeless” simply for asking rationale questions.  These are indeed autocratic tactics by the City to silence community voices in order to get this proposal fast-tracked through without any public scrutiny or fair process.

VoW has created a multi-mode platform which allows concerned residents during a pandemic to stand up for the rights of this community, including the seniors at the two elder care buildings (an equally vulnerable group of our society). Continue to ask educated questions. Clearly this makes our Councillor uncomfortable! To highlight, we'll share some examples of his misinformation in this and future newsletters. 
In the last week, dozens of Voices of Willowdale lawn signs have disappeared overnight. Sign bandits have been actively stealing them (captured by home security cameras). What's happening to freedom of expression in Willowdale? If you need another one, just request one by clicking here - we have plenty more :)
APRIL 6th COMMUNITY CONSULTATION MEETING
The recording of the April 6 community meeting has been posted by the city.  Listen to hear the legitimate concerns from the community but also how residents get cut off or dismissed so expertly by the facilitators. At one point, Bruce Davis, the ‘change-agent’ consultant, who has been hired by the city to be an independent facilitator of these meetings, gets angry and continues to reprimand a resident for calling it a “shelter” even though the resident quickly apologizes for using the wrong term (1h:39min mark). It's not surprising since it's come to our attention that Bruce is a long-time registered lobbyist (yikes!) - further proof of the city's tactics to control the narrative and sway the public.  At the beginning of the meeting, Bruce also asks residents to hold up their hand to essentially promise to behave  (16min mark). At another point, he cuts off and mutes a resident who has clearly done her homework about the mental health needs of this population (1h:13min mark). It's all pretty insulting and tightly controlled, but we’ll let you judge for yourself. Watch the meeting here. After attending the few community meetings that have been held over the last 6 weeks, we still don’t understand how Filion keeps saying it’s a “few angry voices”….perhaps he’s blanked it all out? :)
Watch recording of April 6th City-hosted community "consultation"

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Many of you have emailed Councillor Filion and LURA about this proposal and have included site selection and site location as a major concern. Dozens of community members have repeatedly and specifically asked the city for further details on how the 175 Cummer site for modular housing, literally sandwiched in between two care homes for 700 frail senior citizens, was prioritized and selected from hundreds of other city-owned properties. 

  • Why did they pick beautiful green space with mature trees to pave over rather than one of the hundreds of city-owned parking lots or infill sites.
  • Why did they choose to take away the front-lawn and peaceful park-like green space of a seniors building - one that they currently use for their social and recreational needs. Do not they not care about the senior's health and safety needs....their right to mental and physical wellbeing?
  • Do they not care that this site is far away from the services and supports that the homeless undoubtedly need in order to have the best chance at success (things like nearby mental health and addiction services, frequent-service public transportation, affordable groceries, community health centres for primary care, libraries with computers and internet). 
However when asked to be transparent about site selection, city staff remain tight-lipped about it other than repeating the same basic, non-selective criteria (flat land, large enough, “close to services” etc). A resident with expertise in urban planning took the initiative to draft up these visuals (above and below). We're sharing with the community because a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. It clearly shows how the city is creating an island out of the vulnerable by grouping care facilities at the peripheries of the city without access to necessities. 

At the April 6th meeting, Councillor insisted that this location is very accessible and served well by two bus lines. For anyone that has actually taken bus routes 42 or 98, one knows that you are waiting a LONG time (20-30+ minutes) even in rush hour for sub-standard infrequent service on non-arterial roads. Councillor has also  suggested to community members that the Cummer subway stop is coming and as well as that residents exiting homelessness can shop at the new shops that will eventually be part of the Yonge/Cummer M2M condos. Hmmm.... Councillor did you forget that the Cummer stop is one of the subway stops that is likely to be eliminated due to funding issues (link to article)? Or did you forget the high-end demographic that the M2M condos are catering to, the community is more likely to get a Whole Foods than an affordable grocery store (link to article)? Regardless, even if you ignore both of those points, these developments are years away. We know you no longer live in Willowdale, but come on Councillor, we still expect you to represent our community. 

ALL SUPPORTIVE HOUSING IS NOT EQUAL

Councillor Filion has also been suggesting to community members that the needs of the tenants who will move into the modular housing are no different than the needs of existing Willowdale Manor residents. Supporting housing in his mind, is supporting housing. Same, same? NO!! Of course not, it depends on the population being served and what their needs are. As we heard on the April 6 Community meeting, the city indicated that the population will serve the CHRONICALLY homeless,  a category of homeless with complex and severe needs. The priority population is set and defined by the federal government, who is funding this project with very rushed timelines. Despite what Filion may allude to, the needs of the chronically homeless are indeed complicated and why it’s been a challenge in our city for decades (not just limited to Covid!).  As answered by the City and LURA, the residents will be coming directly from living on the streets, from encampments (tents) and from shelters including the temporary hotel shelters erected during COVID. We know this is not a shelter Mr. Filion, BUT one cannot ignore that it is exactly the SAME population being served in shelters, hence the federal strategy. Their complex and intense mental illness, substance abuse and physical health needs cannot be sugarcoated nor forgotten. Research estimates that 30-40% of the chronically homeless will have a moderate-severe mental health illness, another 30-40% will be living with addiction, and 1/3 of the total population having both - concurrent mental illness and addiction. We have been told the not for profit provider will provide some light touch supports to help the homeless with applying for ODSP/OW, cooking, setting up bank accounts,  but what about their significant mental health or substance use challenges?  To say they have the same needs as the Willowdale Manor is indeed MISREPRESENTATION by our Councillor. He hasn't responded to Willowdale Manor resident's requests for a meeting, nor has he listened to their voices or the petition that over 250 Willowdale Manor residents have signed. 

EXPLANATION OF THE CITY PROCESS AND MZO

Finally many of you have asked for clarification on WHERE the city is with this process. It hasn’t been easy to figure this out but with a bit of research, dozens of emails to the city, and help from land planning experts, we'll shed some light on what's happening. 

  1. The Full Planning report has not yet been submitted to the City’s Planning and Housing committee (only a partial report was submitted in March). Once that full report is submitted, the matter will be considered by the Planning and Housing Committee on May 20 and then again be considered by City Council on June 8. So it’s like one division of the city applying to anther part of the city to gain approval for their own proposal. There is a process that needs to be followed and it should be noted that there will be an opportunity for public deputation /comment at the May 20th meeting.  
  2. Even if this is approved by the city, then we as citizens would have a chance to APPEAL a decision at the LPAT  (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal). Note LPAT was previously called Ontario Municipal Board and is a non-partisan decision making tribunal. In other words, it takes the politics out of the land use planning process and makes decisions based on facts, professional technical reports and good planning.  
  3. HOWEVER, in order to meet the very rushed timelines that the Federal Government has tied to the funding, the city will most definitely REQUEST the Province to approve an MZO (Ministerial Zoning Order), an extraordinary power which would disregard the planning process, deny any rights to have a say in our own community, and most importantly DENY our rights of appeal to the LPAT
  4. It should be noted, the MZO has NOT been approved by the Province (Minister Steve Clark - Municipal Affairs & Housing). In fact, it has not even been requested yet by the city. MPP Stan Cho is aware of the community’s concerns and has sent this letter (link) to Minister Clark in early March.

IN OTHER WORDS…..the city over the past two months have been presenting this proposal at 175 Cummer as if it is a DONE DEAL. But it is NOT!  We need to make sure we continue to advocate to ALL LEVELS of government in order to STOP THIS bad decision which was done in secret and without any consideration for the local context and community input of how the neighbourhood actually functions, including the hundreds of seniors who are literally on the same lot.

Please encourage your neighbours to also sign up for this VoW e-newsletter so they too can stay informed.
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