Posted March 28, 2017
Ottawa ACORN members believe that the municipal government has a responsibility to address the causes of the horrific state of housing in Ottawa and the surrounding region.
Aside from the cost of rent, the biggest problem identified by low-income families who rent in Ottawa is the state of disrepair in apartment buildings. The problems include: massive pest infestations, elevators not working for long periods of time, problems with proper heating, safety issues related to doors not locking properly, and basic repairs in apartments that tenants are entitled to but not receiving.
The Property Standards By-law has more procedural steps and delays than most by-laws in addition to any notice of violation being unenforceable. This issue has left the state of housing in Ottawa at an all time low.
Our members are also deeply concerned about the cost of housing in Ottawa. We are pleased to see the province pledge to enact enabling legislation allowing municipalities to create inclusionary zoning laws. The demand for affordable housing has been on a steady rise since 2006. Ontario's affordable housing wait-list has climbed to over 165,000 households. Many ACORN members have been on the waitlist for years.
It is time to address the growing shortage of affordable housing. In new developments, inclusionary zoning is a tool to increase the amount of affordable housing stock. In redevelopment projects such as the case of the Herongate evictions, demolished units should be replaced in the new development. And no tenant in the case of redevelopment should be evicted in the winter. It is time to gain greater protection for tenants.
ACORN Members Want:
1. Landlord licensing for private and public residential rental properties
2. Rental replacement by-laws and no winter evictions in the case of redevelopment
3. Inclusionary zoning
Community and Protective Services
1. Landlord Licensing for private and public residential properties
Members in both Ottawa and Toronto have long championed a landlord licensing program. We are pleased to see MLS (Municipal Licensing and Standards) in Toronto calling for landlord licensing, charging per unit fees as a cost recovery mechanism, and much of what ACORN has been asking for:
Toronto MLS investigations: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2016/td/bgrd/backgroundfile-90754.pdf
Agenda from the city of Toronto Tenant Issues Committee: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.TD2.2
Motion passed by the Licensing and Standards Committee:
A. Licensing Program
Ottawa members want the landlord licensing program to be mandatory for all landlords in the City of Ottawa that are not subject to the Rooming House License. All information regarding the licensing program must be shared with tenants in writing, and easily accessible in print and online. The program should include:
● The development of a tenant stakeholder group, including ACORN members, to increase engagement and education;
● An application process for property owners that includes clear stipulations regarding the obligations of landlords;
● Clear guidelines that are actively promoted by the City on landlords’ responsibilities to tenants and how tenants can access their rights;
● Landlords should receive a copy of minimum property standards that property owners must adhere to;
● Early identification of potential health and safety risks through inspections;
● Increased compliance with property standards through annual inspections by the City and re- inspection programs to be determined with consultation from City By-law ;
● Program reporting and work orders for non-compliance posted on City of Ottawa website; and
● Financial penalties for property owners that are non-compliant with work orders and/or property standards that are systematic rather than discretionary.
B. Program Requirements
Under this program landlords would be required to:
● Provide the City of Ottawa with contact information for the property;
● Provide the City with property descriptions including year property was built, year(s) property was renovated, type of construction, total number of floors, total number of units, and an estimate of occupied units;
● Provide the City with a copy of building insurance and other applicable insurance;
● Develop and maintain a capital repair plan for good long-term upkeep of buildings;
● Develop an indoor/outdoor maintenance plan including a pest management plan, ice/snow removal, heating systems and elevators, and objectives for ensuring maintenance plan is followed;
● Inform tenants in writing if garbage or waste is provided by the City or a private company;
● Provide information on common or shared systems including, but not limited to, heating/cooling, elevators, alarms, parking, laundry areas, amenities, windows, security, and sprinklers;
● Comply with safety standards for heating/gas/fuel systems and appliances, ensure good working conditions of systems and appliances;
● Ensure up-to-date fire and electrical safety plans and maintenance;
● Ensure regular elevator maintenance and repairs;
● Post service disruptions, notices, or work orders on a central board (e.g. lobby or building common area);
● Post schedule in public area for cleaning of indoors and outdoors common spaces;
● Ensure tenants have information on how to submit work orders to the landlord;
● Create a mandatory program to receive and follow up with tenant requests; and
● Conduct an annual walkabout of the property and inspection of all common areas.
C. Licensing Fees
Licensing fees provide a revenue neutral licensing program. Landlords would be required to pay a per unit, annual licensing fee for cost recovery and administration of program which would include annual inspections, enforcement of non-compliance, tenant outreach and communications.
● City-owned corporations (e.g. Ottawa Community Housing) and non-profits would not be subject to fee, however, would still need to comply with licensing program;
D. Procedures for properties that fail to comply with the licensing program:
I. All landlords must comply with the standards laid out in the by-laws and licensing program. Annual inspections will be required.
a. Any violation or non-compliance will be posted in a public common area of the building and on the City’s website.
b. All complaints for a property submitted through 311 should be tagged to the landlord to avoid unscrupulous landlords from gaining more rental properties in addition to the specific property.
c. The City should apply varying timelines based on the severity of the repairs required.
● Critical: within 48 hours or tenants will be rehoused at landlord's expense at a similar location. Repairs related to vital services: heat, water or structural integrity.
● Urgent: within 7-14 days. Repairs related to the health and well-being of tenants.
● Essential: within 30-60 days. For all repairs that do not fit into the first two categories.
II. Non-compliance or outstanding work orders will result in mandatory remedial action:
a. Non-compliance will trigger a mandatory re-inspection program that will be determined in consultation with City By-law.
b. For any repairs that have yet to be completed or unfulfilled, the City shall undertake the work at the owner’s expense. The expenses can be applied onto the property as a lien.
c. Rental properties with outstanding work orders or fees should be prohibited from renting vacant units until all work orders have been completed and approved by a by-law officer. This protocol would be similar to what has been proposed by Toronto City Council.
III. Failure to comply will result in financial penalty.
● Landlords with outstanding work orders or multiple violations will be subject to monetary penalties such as an increase in the licensing fee.
Planning and Development
2. Rental replacement by-laws (e.g. Herongate) and no winter evictions in the case of redevelopment
In the fall of 2015, tenants and members of ACORN in the Herongate community, one of the largest affordable market rental complexes in Ottawa, were evicted from a section of the rental complex during the winter months. Currently, developers are not required to replace lost affordable rental units whether that be market or subsidized, and winter evictions are allowed if the owner wants to tear down and redevelop the property. Therefore, we want the City of Ottawa to prohibit winter evictions between the months of November to March in the case of redevelopment. Moreover, the City of Vancouver is currently looking into rental replacement laws.
Staff presentation to council:
a. As such, in the case of the demolition and redevelopment of a property, we want a by-law that ensures rental replacements so that if the developer eliminates affordable market rental units or subsidized units, they be included in the new development for the same price.
b. Subsequently, tenants who are evicted should have the first right of refusal to move back into the units created in the new development.
3. Inclusionary Zoning
The City of Ottawa and the entire province need more affordable housing. Inclusionary zoning is one way to achieve more affordable housing. Inclusionary housing programs are a way for municipalities to use their development regulation and approval processes to have private developers provide some affordable units in all (or nearly all) market projects. With the recent pledge from the province, cities will soon have the power to enact inclusionary zoning legislation.
Inclusionary zoning will help the city achieve its long term vision on affordable housing, which states, “25% of all new rental housing is to be affordable to households up to the 30th income percentile” (http://ottawa.ca/en/official-plan-0/25-building-liveable-communities) in all new residential developments. We believe the City of Ottawa has a unique way to help the lowest income citizens without absorbing the costs of creating new affordable housing.
To contact us:
613 744 7228
404 McArthur, Ottawa ON