Taxed Out:

Can Toronto’s retail main streets survive?

In 2018, intense, rapid development in Toronto has led to massive hikes in commercial property values and taxes. Independent businesses are feeling the crunch. Many have closed, and more are threatened by rising space costs. From September to December 2018, the Ryerson City Building Institute presented TAXED OUT, our first gallery exhibition, which through a curated collection of statistics, photography and other visuals illustrated the very real impact of tax policy on the main streets we love.

The Issue

Toronto’s intensive growth has reshaped the skyline in recent years. It has also ushered in a new and perverse system of property tax assessment known as “highest and best use.” Under this methodology, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assesses a commercial property’s value according to what it could be, rather than what it is. As a result, property values have been skyrocketing in Toronto, and with them, commercial property tax bills.

This system has put enormous financial pressure on the diverse businesses and organizations responsible for paying these escalating bills, forcing cutbacks and sometimes, full closures. If we don’t find solutions, the result may be the full-scale hollowing out of independent culture, heritage, local entrepreneurship and small business across the city.

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Credits & Thanks

Photography by Vik Pahwa | Exhibit design by Spacing | Special thanks to Urbanspace Property Group for supporting this project

Thanks to our launch event panelists: