Ottawa Sun: Advocates to McGuinty: Cap rent hikes

Members of an advocacy group stormed Premier Dalton McGuinty's constituency office on Wednesday, urging him to cap rent hikes.

About 30 members of ACORN argued landlords shouldn't be allowed to raise rents beyond 3.1% in between tenants.

Tina Morris said she recently lived in a frigid, ill-maintained flat. After she moved out, she was astonished to find it renting for $400 more than she had paid.

"And he didn't fix anything," she said. "The landlords right now, they can take their vacant apartments and raise the rent as much as they like."

That can create motivation for landlords to drive out low-income tenants.

"The rents are going up and up," Morris said.

Low vacancy rates -- 1.4% last year and an expected 1.2% in 2012 -- have helped keep rent in Ottawa at above the national average.

At $1,086 in 2011, the city's average rent was the third-highest in the country, with the average Ottawa bachelor flat going for $727, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported.

Morris, who receives provincial disability payments, hasn't noticed any significant increase in her cheques to offset soaring rent rates.

"A lot of people don't have options," she said.

The door to McGuinty's constituency office was locked, but a handful of protesters were granted a private audience with a McGuinty representative.

In an e-mailed statement, Housing Minister Kathleen Wynne's office noted the provincial Liberals have spent $2.5 billion on affordable housing since 2003.

And in June, the government put a 2.5% cap on the rent increase guideline, meaning landlords must get approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board to hike rents by greater amounts.