The Planning Review Panel at the Office of the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto has changed its composition from the traditional dominance of “white male homeowners” to a more diverse group that reflects the changing demographics of the city.
Daniel Fusca, Chair of the Toronto Planning Review Panel, said that “a disproportionate number of the people we engage in city planning processes tend to be white, male, homeowners, and over the age of 55.”
The new Toronto Planning Review Panel is comprised of 28 members, of whom same number (14) of men and women, 14 (50%) fall under the category of visible minorities, 12 (42.8%) are white, 1 (3.6%) First Nations and 1 (3.6%) Métis. 7 members (25%) have Muslim/ Arab names reflecting the increasing number of newcomers from the Muslim/ Arab countries who resettled in Toronto. For more information click HERE and HERE.
Fusca also explained that “the 28 members of Toronto’s inaugural Planning Review Panel are smart, sophisticated people who bring an incredible diversity of experience and perspective to the table.”
Inclusivity tops the guiding principles of the Panel which states in this regard the following: “We believe our city should be planned so that Toronto promotes active multiculturalism; is open and welcoming to all long-time residents, newcomers, and visitors; accommodates the needs of all; ensures equal opportunity to pursue success; and fairly balances the interests of diverse people.”
During the meeting of Toronto Planning Review Panel on January 23, 2016, Al Eslami, who came to Canada from Iran over 40 years ago and owns a small translation business, submitted his comments that included a recommendation to “build affordable housing for the working class.” Here are excerpts from Eslami’s submission:
“…We do not live in ordinary times, and things cannot continue to go on the way they have gone before… The Guidelines, which understandably seek to adapt to the current interests and priorities of residential developers, should take account of the new economic and environmental picture as well, including the rising proportion of low-income populations in Toronto.
“Also, faced with the growing climate crisis, a prudent approach is to look for ways to reduce consumption – not only consumption of fossil fuels, but consumption of any and all products…
“The first priority of housing policy should be to provide housing for all… There is already far too much housing for the upper middle class in this city. What we need are guidelines that direct developers to build affordable housing for the working class.
“In addition, “quality housing” that leads to gentrification is contrary to some of this Panel’s basic values, such as inclusivity and affordability…
“The highest priority in residential development should be to build affordable housing… Luxury consumption in any form is the last thing we need under the existing conditions. We need an acceptance of, and a liking for, a lower standard of living…”
The summary of results from the Toronto Planning Review Panel Meeting held on October 15, 2016 that focused in evaluating the work of the Panel, cites some of Eslami’s comments and insights:
“I came to the Panel with the impression that local government was more democratic than the other levels of government… My impression so far has been that local government is not very different than the other levels, in that its operations are rooted in the priorities and interests of a bureaucracy and the business class…
“The agendas of the Panel’s meetings have so far given the impression that the Planning Division does not see socioeconomic issues as falling within its purview in the first place. Apparently, the Planning Division’s work is based on the assumption that socio-economic issues are political issues handled by politicians, not issues that have to do with planning as such…
“The issue is not about diversity of presenters, but rather about their interests. Nearly all presenters so far had an interest in preservation of the status quo…”