It is difficult not to feel disappointed with Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas who, last week, voted against York Region’s proposed 55-unit transitional housing/ emergency shelter for men at 14452 Yonge Street.  

His vote made all the difference and the shelter was rejected 4-3.

Bad Faith

Mrakas, Mayor since 2018, accuses York Region of bad faith. He claims that a year ago in January 2023 the Region put forward an application for housing on the site already earmarked for a wastewater pumping station. He fumed that the Region’s new application

“completely reneges on their already approved site plan agreement for that location.”

I think the Mayor protests too much.

Mrakas had known for years that the Region was considering a transitional housing project on land it owned close to a wastewater pumping station. On 4 May 2021 Region staff made a presentation to Aurora Council specifically flagging up the shelter project which they believed could be located close to the pumping station. (See graphic below)

Mrakas didn’t raise any objections.

"One of the best sites"

In the run up to the 13 February 2024 meeting Newmarket Mayor John Taylor - who also chairs Housing York - told Newmarket Today: 

"The current site (14452 Yonge Street) is one of the best sites I have ever seen for a shelter and housing site. The site is also region owned… The public has told us we need to do more and we need to act quickly. The opportunity is here to do just that. It is my deep hope that this site is approved and we can begin to move people from crisis to stability as soon as possible."


When Mrakas voted down the Shelter proposal he took a sideswipe at “some politicians”. Who did he have in mind? John Taylor?

“I refused to be pressured into making a poor planning decision for the community I represent just so some politicians can check a box, pat themselves on the back and claim they’ve “accomplished something”.

Newmarket Today reports that some people are now accusing Mrakas of doing a flip-flop, dropping support for the project after becoming alarmed by the strength of the local opposition. 

Some fired-up people in the neighbourhood feared a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour and an adverse impact on local property values. The Region responded point-by-point. The shelter would be staffed by professionals round the clock, 365 days a year. The residents would be carefully selected. And there was no evidence that transitional housing as proposed would have a negative impact on house prices. It didn’t happen with Belinda’s Place in Newmarket.

Comparative Analysis

Mrakas claims he asked the Region to do a comparative analysis of other sites that may be suitable:

“A year ago, when this application was originally presented, instead of denying the application outright, this Council gave the applicant more time to conduct a site selection process – establish siting criteria, scan for potentially suitable properties, assign a score for each based on those criteria and provide the completed site selection matrix to this Council. Take the time to provide facts to support the applicants stated belief this is the BEST location for the proposed development and thus warrants the zoning amendments requested or to take the time to find a more appropriate site in Aurora, one that aligns with the intent of our Official Plan.”

Mrakas is now gilding the lily. At no stage during that January 2023 meeting did he explicitly mention a comparative analysis report. 

He simply asked the Region:

What other locations in Aurora have been considered or could be considered for this facility that better address the security, accessibility, transit and other issues raised this evening?

Nothing happened

Mrakas now complains this didn’t happen in the detail he allegedly demanded:

“Unfortunately, that did not occur and we are left to consider, a year later, the same application with little additional facts to support the requested zoning amendments.”

Why didn’t it happen?

Mrakas has spoken about the urgent need for a shelter so why did he sit on his hands?

He is an experienced member of York Regional Council. He is a full-time politician with support staff. So what was he doing between January 2023 and February 2024?

What steps did he take to get this “comparative analysis"?

Who did he speak to and when?

How did he follow up?

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