For a self-described pervert, George Giaouris doesn’t look the part. Wearing a sensible polo shirt and translucent, wide frame glasses, the owner of the longest-running leather shop in Canada looks more dad than deviant.
“I kind of always knew that this it; that this is my calling in a sense because I was born into the family business,” says Giaouris. But his passion for leather, kink and fetish goes beyond mere vocation.
Northbound Leather, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this Saturday with a fashion show and fetish party at the Phoenix, has its legs in a family affair that started in Yorkville in 1969. After the store moved to its current Yonge Street location in the ‘70s, it officially became known as Northbound in 1987.
“Ear-to-the-ground is what my father taught me,” Giaouris says of his approach to business. “So instead of trying to force something on someone, ask them what they want.”
From bustiers and boleros to collars and cockrings, Northbound caters to anyone wishing to explore their wild side. For some, a simple leather vest is enough to satiate that tactile want; for others, it might be dressing your partner up as a puppy, complete with full leather mask, paws, tail and leash.
“There are as many variations on what [leather] means as there are people practicing it,” he says. “The only question we’ve ever asked is: ‘Is it legal?’”
The Globe and Mail‘s Jeff Gray reports on how Toronto’s first black city councilor is finally going to be honoured with a park.
Between 1893 and 1913, Mr. Hubbard – a child of freed slaves who fled Virginia to farm in Upper Canada in 1837 – would serve the city as an alderman (what we now call city councillors), and also vice-chairman of a powerful cabinet-like body called the board of control, a position second only to the mayor. He also served as acting mayor.
Revered as council’s “Cicero” for his speeches, he became a leading civic figure, representing a white, wealthy ward. He was also a successful businessman in the city, at a time when black people were banned from many restaurants. But his skin colour was barely given a mention in The Globe’s accounts of the time.
This weekend, politicians, community groups and Hubbard descendants from across Canada and the United States will christen Hubbard Park, a green space in front of the old Don Jail that is now part of Bridgepoint hospital, at Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East. The park’s name was voted on by local residents, and it is not far from where Mr. Hubbard lived in a grand home on Broadview Avenue.
His memory was neglected for years. When the city government abandoned Old City Hall for New City Hall in 1965, a grand portrait of Mr. Hubbard that had graced the walls of the old building for years was left in a storage room until 1976, when a new interest in black history was emerging. (Since the late 1980s, the city has also issued an award for activists in his name.)
That portrait hangs in the office of Toronto’s only sitting black councillor, Scarborough’s Michael Thompson, but even he had never heard of Mr. Hubbard until he began researching his story while working as a political aide at city hall in the late 1990s.
In The Globe and Mail, Kerry Gold reports on the pressures that are pushing renters away from the rapid transit networks that they use so regularly. At this rate, who will be able to afford to live in Vancouver but the rich?
Since the majority of transit users are renters and low-income earners, building low-cost housing around transit would seem obvious.
But overwhelmingly, dense, free-market condo developments have been the priority around transit stations. The result is an increase of property values that have displaced the renters that need transit the most. In the Metrotown area of Burnaby, and near the Evergreen Line in Burquitlam, old rental buildings are being torn down to make way for pricier condos.
It’s a state of affairs that has exasperated housing advocates like Kishone Roy, chief executive officer of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. Mr. Roy, like a growing number of others who’ve studied the issue, says that no transit plan should go forward without a plan for affordable housing. The housing crisis simply can’t be fixed without the transit piece.
“It is extremely backward public policy that the only people that can afford to live along transit lines in Metro Vancouver are people who can afford a car – and the people who need transit can’t afford to live along those transit lines,” says Mr. Roy. “It’s happened for an array of reasons, including lack of government participation in the affordable housing market. There’s been an abdication of the government’s role in housing that’s created mass homelessness, a rental housing crisis, and this weird development problem we have in Vancouver, where we have transit investments, but no housing investments at the same time.”
That means building dense, affordable housing around transit lines that are already in the works.
“It’s a game of diminishing returns, because when you lose that housing along the transit line, then you have to build somewhere else, and then they will need more transit out there. You can spend less and get more, if you plan these things together.
Torontoist’s Tannara Yelland reports on a good idea re: Toronto’s housing crisis that needs more thorough implementation.
With a dearth of affordable housing options in the city, municipal administrators have long known they need to do more to ensure that Toronto residents can actually afford to be Toronto residents. In 2009, City Council adopted Housing Opportunities Toronto—An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020 [PDF]. The ambitious plan called for the creation of 10,000 new affordable rental homes and 2,800 affordable ownership homes. The City has since fallen short of yearly targets several times and looks like to fall far short of its final targets as well.
When the City falls behind on its affordable housing policies, there are serious consequences for thousands of Torontonians. Around 88,000 households are on the waitlist for affordable housing right now, and with rents and property values only going up each year, that number is likely to continue growing.
The City felt it needed to encourage developers to create more affordable housing, and so the Open Door Program was launched in April 2015 to help address the policy challenge. The three “prongs” of the program, according to Erik Hunter, manager of policy and partnerships with Toronto’s Affordable Housing Office, are:
•Making city lands available for development;
•Fast-tracking the planning and approval process for developers creating affordable housing;
•“increasing the city’s supports and mainlining access to them for affordable housing developers.”
The program includes municipal tax breaks and breaks on fees to developers, which developers can take advantage of for as long as they agree to keep some units affordable (the minimum is 20 years).
It’s a pretty sweet deal for developers, who are already enjoying the benefits of a real-estate market that’s so red-hot it’s been the subject of repeated warnings, but that hasn’t yet driven people into cheaper nearby cities en masse. Of course, the City can’t force developers to build anything they don’t want to build. An inclusionary zoning bill is before the Ontario legislature; if passed, it could allow cities to require that affordable housing units be included in new developments, but for now cities are restricted in what they can tell developers. Toronto Community Housing is dealing with a $3.6 billion repair backlog that has people already in social housing living in sometimes unsafe conditions; thousands of units could be condemned within the next few years if additional funding isn’t secured.