Posted August 29, 2019
An advocacy group for low-income tenants is urging the City of Ottawa to crack down on shabby living conditions by licensing landlords, but landlords say that will just worsen the capital's rental housing crunch.
The city plans to come up with new rules this fall that could affect all private rental properties, from traditional apartments and rooming houses to student housing and short-term rentals like Airbnb.
Members of the advocacy group Acorn Ottawa have been going to public meetings to argue people shouldn't have to live with bed bugs, cockroaches or unresponsive landlords.
Acorn's solution is to license all landlords who own more than three units, and subject them to regular city inspections.
"Bad landlords don't exist in just one area, or a couple of areas. They're throughout the city," said Acorn's Blaine Cameron.
Licensing would be 'counterproductive'
But the Eastern Ontario Landlords Organization says the city simply needs to better enforce the bylaws it already has, and target the few problematic buildings for which it regularly gets noise and property complaints.
"Let's address those problems. Let's not bring in all kinds of regulations and all kinds of cost and bother to the 95 per cent of landlords who behave well and are maintaining their buildings well," said its chair John Dickie.
Broad licensing of landlords would be counterproductive, he added.
"It would discourage people from renting out units, which at this point, that's the last thing that should be done," said Dickie.
An analysis of the rental market for the City of Ottawa describes how rents rose sharply between 2016 and 2018, and the 1,123 new units that came on the market in that time couldn't keep up with 5,388 more renters.
The affordability and supply of rental housing are big issues but are more likely to be dealt with through the new official plan and homelessness strategy.
Online survey closes Sept. 4
Maclaren Municipal Consulting, which the city hired to take stock of Ottawa's wide-ranging rental issues, offered the city more policy choices to deal with housing conditions in a report this month.
Toronto, for instance, has a registry of large apartment buildings and requires them to deal with pests. Oshawa actually licenses rental housing, but only near its post-secondary campuses.
Another option would be to have bylaw officers write tickets when they see an unkempt property, the same way they write parking tickets, instead of only following up on complaints.
Residents have until Sept. 4 to fill out a survey with their feedback, which will feed into what regulations or enforcement staff recommend to city councillors this fall. Any new regulations will not extend to social housing or long-term care homes.
A second survey on options for regulating short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, closes the same day.
Article by Kate Porter for CBC News