Open Letter from Andrea Horwath: Review MPAC assessment that threatens cultural hub at 401 Richmond

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued the following open letter calling on the Premier to review an MPAC assessment that threatens the future of the cultural hub at 401 Richmond. See attached and below.

December 20, 2016

 
Office of the Premier 
Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park 
Room 281 Toronto, Ontario 
M7A 1A1
 
Dear Premier Wynne:
 
I wanted to make you aware of some issues that have been raised recently concerning the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
 
As you know, MPAC is the provincially-controlled, municipally-funded agency that assesses the values of properties in Ontario under the Assessment Act. MPAC and the system of Current Value Assessment for property taxes were introduced by the Ontario PC government in 1997, and have been maintained by your government in largely the same form.
You may have recently read that the future of 401 Richmond, an irreplaceable cultural hub in downtown Toronto, is now in doubt as a result of property tax increases of 85%, following MPAC’s most recent assessment.
 
The problem is, MPAC does not assess the value of commercial or industrial properties based on their current use, or even based on uses that are allowed under current zoning rules. Instead, 401 Richmond was assessed based on the value of the 30-storey condo tower that MPAC imagines might exist in its place. This is known as the principle of “highest and best use.”
MPAC uses the same principle when assessing the value of Toronto’s heritage properties. Even though these properties theoretically cannot be demolished under Toronto’s heritage rules, MPAC assesses their value as if they had already been knocked down to make room for condo towers.
 
The Ontario Municipal Board plays a supporting role here when it ignores heritage conservation rules, favouring developers and setting a precedent that is hard to push back against. Former NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, in whose former riding 401 Richmond sits, fought hard to rein in the OMB’s extraordinary ability to rewrite Toronto’s planning and heritage conservation rules while ignoring municipal and provincial statutes, plans and policies.
 
The destructive combined actions of MPAC and the OMB are block-busting Toronto’s heritage districts and threatening the future of vital cultural hubs like 401 Richmond, and this needs to stop.
It is regrettable that your new Modernizing Ontario's Municipal Legislation Act (Bill 68) does not include MPAC reform within its scope, nor does it include most other financial measures that municipalities have been demanding for years.
 
401 Richmond and Toronto’s heritage properties however, cannot wait for your next review of municipal finances. They need MPAC reform now. I urge you to immediately take a closer look at MPAC and review its principle of “highest and best use.”
 
Sincerely,
[signed in original]
Andrea Horwath
Leader of the Ontario NDP