Section 37

In March 2024, Ward 13 Councillor Moise spent $275,000 in community improvements: $80k for tree guards and $150k for planters; $3.2k for bike parking and $1.8k for heritage street signs; $40k for painted pedestrian crossings. Prior Section 37 spending in Ward 13 included $300k to rename Yonge-Dundas Square (Jan 2024), $1m for Anishnawbe Health Toronto’s Indigenous Community Hub (Oct 2023), $19.2k for Bell utility box murals (Aug 2023), $350k for a new sidewalk (June 2023), $500k for Dixon Hall revitalization (March 2023), $250k for a statue of Councillor Pam McConnell (May, 2021) and $1.04m for Bike Share (2019).

Most were useful community improvements, but where did the money come from? Section 37 funds! How much money is left to spend? Who knows! Is there a report detailing Section 37 community benefit spending in each ward, by year? Apparently not; one has to dig through minutes of each City Council meeting for every instance where spending of Section 37 cash was authorized. The only Section 37 reporting the city provides now is an Open Data report. That report shows Section 37 promised cash benefits for Ward 13, by decade, total $136m, 37 projects (2020-2023) and $145m, 84 projects (2010-2019). (See note)

Source: Section 37 reports for 2013-14, 2016-18 and 2019.
Ward 13 (map) was created in Oct 2018, by combining most of the former Ward 27 (map) and Ward 28 (map). At year-end 2018, Ward 13 was allotted 60% of the Section 37 cash from Wards 27 and 28.

Section 37 cash is paid by developers to the city when construction starts, typically a few years after the project was approved by City Council. Payments are sometimes made in instalments according to a negotiated schedule; sometimes benefit amounts are indexed to inflation (so funds received could be greater than shown in Open Data). But no cash is received if an approved project doesn’t get built. Open Data shows dates and cash benefit amounts (ie. amounts promised), but there is no data when or how much cash was actually received for each development. In previous years, the city made some attempt to report Section 37 cash expenditures, remaining balances, and interest earned, for each ward.

The city has received a lot of cash for Section 37 benefits; as of Dec 2019, Ward 13 had an unspent balance of $84m (city total was $328m). To justify spending to rename Dundas Square, Councillor Moise explained: Section 37 funds “are not tax dollars” (Toronto Sun, Feb 2024); however, public reporting of Section 37 spending is equally important, as the city’s reporting of its spending of public tax and fees revenue (via the annual budget).


What is Section 37? Until August 2023, Section 37 density bonusing permitted the City to grant developers an increase in permitted height and/or density via rezoning, in return for community benefits. Benefit amounts (cash and in-kind) were negotiated for each development by city planning and the local councillor. Initially there were no standards to guide benefit amounts, relying on the councillor’s negotiating skill and creativity. (Jan 2015, Toronto Star). After a development is approved by City Council, the Section 37 benefits are considered “secured”: the developer has a legal obligation to provide those benefits at a future date, if/when the development proceeds. The spending of these funds is largely directed by the local councillor to fund projects in their ward. Toronto’s official plan lists some typical Section 37 benefits as public art, parks, housing and heritage conservation. (Smaller amounts, called Section 45 community benefits, were also received by the city from developers, where the Committee of Adjustment adds a condition on the approval of a minor variance to the zoning by-law.

After Aug 2023, the density bonusing process was replaced by a 4% community benefits charge (CBC) for developments.)

Section 37 reporting: The city published detailed Section 37 reports for 2013-14, 2016-18 and 2019. No report for 2015.
2013-14: shows total promised cash benefits, and total cash received. No breakdown by ward. No info on cash spending.
2016-18: shows cash received from developers, interest earned, expenditures by ward; details of every expenditure; reserve fund cash balances at year end (for previous 44 wards, and restated for the current 25 wards)
2019: (report with appropriate detail/completeness) shows cash-in-lieu community benefits secured; details of every expenditure; cash received from developers, interest earned, expenditures; reserve fund cash balances at year-end; and in-kind benefits received in that year.
• 2020-2022: No info provided by the city. When asked for more recent Section 37 data for 2020-2022, the city provided only a very high level summary of secured benefits (the same info as contained in Open Data).

Open Data: In 2021, Councillor Ainslie recommended that Section 37 details be published on Open Data, including Community Benefit Expenditures, and Balances and Interest Earned on all Section 37 and Section 45 Reserve Funds. But so far, no details on cash received, expenditures or account balances appear in Open Data.

Section 37 Open Data lists details on the Community Benefits secured via the legacy Section 37 from 1984-2023, for the 25 wards (curiously, there is no data for 1985 or 1995). Ward boundaries have changed several times in the past 40 years; presumably historical data is categorized according to the current ward boundaries. See chart summarizing by decade: a total of 1386 agreements and a promised $1.52 billion (as of March 21, 2024). But no indication how many dollars actually received by the city, how/where these funds were spent, or balance remaining of unspent cash.

Open Data: Section 37 promised cash benefits for Ward 13 (1984-2022)
Open Data: Section 37 promised cash benefits, summarized by ward, by decade (1984-2022)
Section 37 summary for 2013-14, 2016-18 and 2019
Section 37 cash expenditures for Ward 13 (2019)
Section 37 cash balances as of Dec 31, 2019

sample Ward 13 benefits
Each Open Data entry shows Approval Date, Cash benefit, By?law #, Address, and Description of Benefits. The actual bylaw gives a complete description (mostly general restrictions on use of funds). For example, 2 large amounts for Wed 13 are:

  • $14.75m in Sept 2021 (2 Carlton: the block bounded by Carlton, Yonge and Wood). As per bylaw, cash amount to be increased by upwards indexing according to the Statistics Canada Non-Residential Construction Price Index, until date payment is made. Funds to be paid prior to the issuance of the first above-grade building permit for the development. Funds to be allocated equally, between:
    (a) Capital improvements for new or existing affordable housing, cultural or recreational facilities in the Ward;
    (b) Local area streetscape capital improvements; and
    (c) Local area park capital improvements.

  • $14.2m in Nov 2019 (CIBC Head Office complex: 56 Yonge Street, 21 Melinda St., 18 to 30 Wellington St. W., 187 to 199 Bay St. and 25 King St. W.) Amount to be indexed, payable when building permit issued.
    (a) $3.3m for public streetscape improvements adjacent to the site
    (b) $1.8m for public streetscape improvements within the Financial District
    (c, i)$8m for new affordable housing within Ward 13
    (c, ii) $4.4m for local streetscape improvements within Ward 13, in consultation with the Ward
    (d) $1m for on-site public art
    If the funds have not been used for the intended purposes within three (3) years of the By-law date, funds may be used for another purpose that will benefit Ward 13 (see bylaw)
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