Making a Point of Privilege


Clr. Humfreys’ motion regarding the Preservation of Heritage Buildings (BBS12-005) was approved  on Tuesday night.

The portion regarding amendments to Property Standards bylaws was well received.

However the second component regarding an incentive program (read low interest loan) to assist with increased costs was thankfully not met with such enthusiasm.

The wording in the motion for that item is for council to “consider”, emphasis on the large air quotes.

The whole idea of leveraging $ from the tax base to fund private homes didn’t sit well with the majority of council, especially Clr. Buck.

Back in February of last year Clr. Buck had a well written post on the subject, which you can read here:

Her whole post is an extrapolation of an issue that came before the town regarding 34 Catherine Ave which Clr. Buck submitted the following letter to the Auroran on pg 4 the week of April 25th 2006.

The following expert was directed at resident John MacinTired

“there is the other little matter of the right of yourself and other owners of designated properties to request relief from property taxes and grants and loans for the costs of preservation, with the consequence of shifting the tax burden to properties with no claim to heritage classification.
I guess that’s what you meant when you charged me with creating a split between old residents and new.  Like you, John, I make no apology for being who I am and defending the interests of people who have not and do not enjoy your privilege…myself among them.”

You can read the full piece here:

Download this file

In Tuesday’s council meeting Clr. Buck referred to her own hous, as well as others created around the same time as “ticky tacky boxes”.

It got me thinking about those little green plastic houses you play with in the Monopoly board game.

Artist An Te Liu was commissioned to radically remodel #19 Leona Drive in Toronto in his 2009 piece “Title Deed”, pictured above and here:


This was part of a larger project that can be viewed here:

The houses on Leona Drive were built after World War II along with dozens, if not hundreds, of others all constructed in a similar “salt box” style.  The homes were economical in both style and cost: ideal for the many thousands of returning servicemen who were eager to resume their peacetime lives and livelihoods.

Liu runs the graduate landscape and architecture program at the University of Toronto, and decided to modify the 36′ by 44′ house to resemble the green Monopoly house.

In Monopoly players can buy the green plastic houses for $100 each and place on their properties, thus driving up the rent other players have to pay. 

This is not far off the intent of the “incentive program” that council is to consider.

Liu’s piece, in his own words forces us to re-evaluate the concept of home:

“Our homes are not necessarily what we think they are.  They are property just like in Monopoly to be remortgaged and used as collateral.”

Those who own and operate a heritage home do so through privilege.

If for whatever reason they do not have the means to meet the property standards bylaw they should not expect that the town will augment or pay for them to continue such privilege at the expense of every one else.

Clr. Buck hits the nail on the head with this statement:

“So passionate are some, to protect what they have, they are now prepared to deprive their neighbours of the same opportunity they had.”

Perhaps what needs to be added to prevent this from happening is the square from the board game that would read: Do not pass motion, do not collect low interest loan.

Watts on your mind?

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