Thinking Out Loud

September 16, 2012

Churches in Toronto See 800% Increase in School Rentals

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Have you ever had guests from out of town who knew more about your hometown than you did?  That’s how I felt learning about this Toronto story — a city about an hour away — from the Christianity Today Live Blog.

Canadian churches in Toronto may face eviction if they fail to pay increased rent to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) — even as those payments increase up to 800 percent.

The TDSB announced on August 29 that churches renting space in public schools would no longer qualify for reduced rental rates. Other nonprofits still qualify for subsidized rent, but churches have been removed as the school district seeks to close a sizable budget gap.

Churches have scrambled to determine their options. In some cases, the recent change will result in rent increases of up to 800 percent.

Some pastors gathered to protest the rental fee hikes, claiming the increase to be an attack on churches, but other pastors prayed over the school board for divine intervention.

The move is part of a 2012-2013 district budget, approved in June, that will attempt to close a $110 million budget gap.

CT previously covered the similar situation of churches in New York City, a long-running case that questioned whether or not schools could evict churches and went before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2011. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so in June a New York district court judge issued a permanent injunction, allowing churches to continue meeting in schools. 

Certainly there are other types of spaces available, and churches, be they in New York or Toronto or Dallas or elsewhere need to be more creative in uncovering new places to meet.

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7 Comments »

  1. I have read this in the Sun, Star and other publications. I guess it is really newsworthy when an American magazine gets wind of it. This is not an isolated issue. School boards across the province, including the one where I live are grappling with debt and budget cuts. In the school board where I live, the rates have been raised to the rate where groups have to consider is it worthwhile to remain in a school or are there other options. Here are some things to consider
    1. Non profit groups that wish to use school facilties during the week still can take advantage of a subsidy or even use the schools for free during the school year. The rent increases only apply to those groups that use on the weekends. The fact is, the number one group who utilizes schools on Sundays are churches.
    2. optional places for churches to use are getting less and less. In fact the Toronto city council is considering removing ‘places of worship’ from any of its local designations. This will severally restrict where churches can meet, and how existing churches expand ministry. And we all know if this passes in Toronto, then it will spill over into the rest of the province.
    3. 800% increase! That is not an increase it is extortion. The reality is the school boards will be left without any tenants, and without any rent money to pay their debts. So there will be two losers; the church groups and the schools

    Comment by ralph juthman — September 16, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    • I did manage to locate The Star article; it ran on Wednesday.
      Always amazing how Charles McVety ends up in the middle of all these issues.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 16, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

  2. First, the 800% number has been used repeatedly, yet I have not seen an example that is anywhere near 800%. But facts have never been a barrier to the religious fanatics.

    Second, why should my tax dollars pay for religious groups that already benefit from tax free status.

    Third, the comparison to other non profit groups is not valid unless you name these other groups. Let me name them for you: scouts, guides, etc. in other words, groups that actively contribute to the community and rely completely on volunteers.

    Comment by Acartia — September 16, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

    • While it’s obvious where you’re coming from on this, the point remains that you can’t have two entirely separate classes of non-profits.

      BTW, for what it’s worth, not all Christ-followers believe we are well served by having tax exempt status; there are some who believe that we would be more accountable by having churches pay their share of, for example, land taxes. (But obviously a minority viewpoint.)

      There are a number of churches which conduct for-profit events such as concerts, etc., that have had their tax-exempt status tested; and there are also churches which, instead of renting community centres, decided to actually create a for-profit recreational centre that is open to the public all week, and then had a smaller area that was dedicated church space, and only the cordoned off church space was tax exempt.

      Also, whether or not you wish to admit it, local Christian churches do make a difference in a community. If they don’t, they’re part of a minority who are doing it wrong. Historically, many of our ‘secular’ institutions, from hospitals, universities, the YMCA, etc., all have their roots in various Christian movements.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 16, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    • Re. 800%

      “Pastor Larry Junio, whose 60-member Jesus Reigns Ministries congregation rents space in an Etobicoke school for Saturday and Sunday … his annual rent rose from $5,673 to a jaw-dropping $44,695.”

      ~Toronto Star article by Valerie Hauch, 9-12-2012, pages GT1-GT2.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 16, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  3. Maybe one good thing to come out of this is that churches will become more creative in the places they choose to meet in. Personally, I can’t stand school gymnasiums – they don’t have the intimacy of a living room, nor the sense of awe of a cathedral, nor the acoustics of a concert hall, nor the congeniality of a coffee-shop.

    I’m very convinced that the architecture around us directly informs our thinking and our theology. An Anglican church building is very specifically designed to draw our attention to the Eucharist. Methodist churches tend to be designed to draw our attention to the teaching of the word. Brethren churches are often designed to draw our attention to the community, and so on.

    If our only criteria for choosing a meeting place is ‘is it cheap?’, then we’ll end up in the wrong place.

    Comment by Trevor — September 20, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    • Excellent and well-stated. I am convinced there are community spaces, company board rooms, motel meeting rooms, libraries, etc., that all constitute better choices.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 20, 2012 @ 7:27 pm


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