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Is it time to charge for views in the 6ix?: Toronto expert pitches plan to charge for scenic vistas

Gail Dexter Lord says the City of Toronto should be capitalizing on the views created by public spaces and cultural institutions.

Gail Dexter Lord believes the City of Toronto should charge developers or condo dwellers for stellar views of public spaces or cultural institutions like the Royal Ontario Museum (seen here).

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Gail Dexter Lord believes the City of Toronto should charge developers or condo dwellers for stellar views of public spaces or cultural institutions like the Royal Ontario Museum (seen here).

A view may be priceless, but one city expert on planning and cultural institutions says it’s time to stop pretending they’re free.

Gail Dexter Lord, co-president of Lord Cultural Resources, believes Toronto should be capitalizing on the views condo and apartment dwellers have of parks and cultural institutions.

“Condo developers are promoting, pushing and selling based on views,” Lord said. “And in the meantime, the organizations that provide those views are starved for money.”

Developers already pay into a fund that helps build parks or public plazas – a process known as Section 37 – but Lord says that still leaves the city on the hook for the operating costs associated with those spaces.

“They spend a lot of money maintaining them and they don’t benefit at all,” she said.

The same applies to cultural institutions, Lord says. If museums like the Art Gallery of Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum received money for the views they provide and preserve, she believes they could attract more visitors – or at least lower ticket prices. 

Lord says there are a number of ways a “pay per view” model might work. For example, developers could be charged or residents could pay as part of their monthly condo fees.

Bryan Tuckey, president of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), warned any fees charged to developers will be passed on to home buyers.

“Municipalities need creative solutions to address their ongoing financial issues, but solutions … should not make the region’s housing affordability challenge worse,” he said in a statement.

Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam applauded Lord for her “creative, big thinking,” but said a view tax could be “difficult to enforce and rather challenging to implement.”

Wong-Tam said asking resident to further subsidize parks or cultural institutions outside their windows could be a tough sell – especially if future developments could ruin those views.

“There are ordinances in the U.S. which provide for view protection, but we generally don’t have that in Toronto,” she said, noting that attempts by the city to protect view corridors are often challenged at the Ontario Municipal Board.

With files from Luke Simcoe

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