Let’s help Vertical Communities weather the storm!

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On August 7th, Toronto experienced its worst flooding since 2013. We were subsequently hit with more flooding on August 17th and 21st. Insurers have already paid out over $800 million in Ontario in extreme weather insurance claims this year. While many were affected in the most recent floods, the largest impact has been in the downtown core, specifically buildings - vertical communities, condominiums, low and high-rise buildings. Many buildings were affected by flooding, pipe damage, roof damage, and damage to parking facilities and vehicles.

Currently, the City of Toronto has programs in place to assist with flooding, resilience and extreme weather events but all of these are focused on single family dwellings, townhomes and vertical communities older than 1985. This leaves the vast majority of downtown core residents unprotected - this is unacceptable.

As the Chair of the Southcore Residents Association, former Condo Board President, and a Torontonian who proudly calls downtown Toronto home, I’m calling for action and for change to protect our buildings.

Below is the petition to Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council that calls for specific measures to help buildings cope with, and manage, increasingly severe extreme weather events. I hope I can count on you to help me push this action forward. Please add your name if you believe that we must act now to protect our communities!

Join me in demanding that City Hall stop ignoring buildings, and the needs of downtown Toronto residents as it relates to protecting us from the impacts of flooding and extreme weather events.

Thank you,
Kevin Vuong

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Toronto is growing at an unprecedented pace, not just in population but also in height. As an example, since 2000, over 210,000 condo units have been added to the city with many of them in the downtown core (Globe and Mail). Along with this growth in population and height is the growing risk of the impacts of extreme weather events. Toronto is seeing an increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events. Buildings constructed to older standards, or standards that do not adequately protect them from extreme weather events are at particular risk.

When city officials discuss extreme weather events, flooding, and wind damage, they often only discuss this in terms of single and semi-detached homes or townhomes. Rarely, if ever, buildings like ours are considered. It is time for this to stop. The August 7th flood had a disproportionate impact on downtown buildings, causing flooding, damage to garages and vehicles, confusion over insurance claims, and even more elevator failures.

These impacts, while severe for any resident, are disproportionately severe for residents of buildings. If only 2 of 5 elevators are working this puts lives in jeopardy if emergency services need to access upper floors. If there is confusion over liability between the owner and the condo corporation, followed by denials of insurance claims, the financial hardship can be crushing.

It is time for attention to be paid to Toronto's downtown buildings. It’s time the city helps us weather the storms of the impacts of extreme weather to protect our homes and communities. As such, I am calling for the city to immediately implement the following actions:

1)     EXPAND CITY HOME RESILIENCE PROGRAM TO VERTICAL COMMUNITIES

The Toronto Home Resilience Program is an emergency preparedness and flood risk reduction service that provides homeowners with emergency management resources and a confidential Home Flood Protection Assessment to help residents reduce the risk of flooding. Currently there are only 200 registrations available to owners of fully-detached, semi-detached, and townhomes in the City of Toronto for a subsidized fee of $95 from July-September 2018. We need to ask City Council to work with their partners, including the Insurance Bureau of Canada, to extend this program to vertical communities.

2)     EXPAND THE CITY’S HOME ENERGY LOAN PROGRAM TO VERTICAL COMMUNITIES AND INCLUDE FLOOD AND EXTREME WEATHER PROTECTION RETROFITS

This program provides homeowners with loans of up to $75,000, at rates as low as 2% with up to 15 years to repay the loan for home renovations focused on energy efficiency. The loan is tied to the property and is repaid via property tax, meaning the homeowner doesn’t need to spend any of their own capital. We need to augment this program to apply to vertical communities and make activities that flood and weatherproof vertical communities eligible for loans.

3)     ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TORONTO URBAN FLOODING FRAMEWORK

The Urban Flooding Framework is expected to be completed in the coming years under the city’s Urban Resilience plan. However, given the frequency and severity of extreme weather events and their effect on vertical communities, it is time to accelerate this Framework so that all vertical residents and corporation managers have a guidebooks to help us prepare for what we are experiencing.

4)     MANDATE THAT ALL VERTICAL COMMUNITIES HAVE OVERLAND FLOOD INSURANCE

Overland flood insurance is still extremely rare in Canada and many insurers do not offer it. The ones who do, offer it as an ‘add-on’ to standard insurance clauses and at a premium price. We are asking the City to work with condominium corporations, the province and the federal government to ensure that adequate overland flood insurance is available to vertical communities to secure their safety, financial security, and peace of mind.  

5)     IMPLEMENT THE 2017 PROPOSED TORONTO STORMWATER LEVY TO HELP ENSURE THE FUNDS ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP COPE WITH INCREASED FLOODING AND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS.

In 2017, Toronto City Council, led by Mayor John Tory, voted down a measure to create a dedicated stormwater management levy to better cope with, and manage, stormwater overflows during extreme weather and flooding events. As a consequence, the damage done by the August 7th flood was certainly made more severe and more expensive to remediate. As such, we are demanding an immediate reconsideration of the 2017 vote. We are demanding the implementation of a dedicated stormwater management levy, charged based on a scale of how much a property’s surface area contributes to overland flooding during extreme weather events. The funds collected should be used 50% to fund improvements to Toronto’s stormwater infrastructure and 50% directed into a fund that can be drawn on to provide financial compensation to affected homes and residences including condominiums.



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