Posted May 14, 2021
Seven percent of Ontario tenants, or 98,000 families, can’t pay their full rent because of pandemic-related job loss. They are accumulating rent arrears that many will never be able to repay, according to the Federation of Rental Providers of Ontario (FRPO). In the Annex alone, 16 eviction applications have been made since November.
Three of the applications were made at 50 Walmer Rd., owned by Mountrealco Inc.
According to the Keep Your Rent Campaign, some tenants at 50 Walmer Rd. asked Mountrealco Inc. for rent forgiveness in April, but were offered individual rent deferral plans instead. Some of those tenants declined the deferral plans citing uncertain financial futures, however, tenant organizer Pri Sharma did not grant the Gleaner an interview.
Other eviction applications include one at 245 Howland Ave., managed by COGIR Siteline, and another at 206 St. George St, managed by Better Living Homes. These companies did not return the Gleaner’s request for comment. The remaining Annex eviction applications as listed by Evictions Ontario did not identify the property owners.
The Ontario government stopped eviction enforcement on Jan. 14th, but only during Toronto’s “stay-at-home” order, while allowing eviction hearings to continue. That is why evictions resumed on March 8, when Toronto shifted into “grey-lockdown.”
“It scares me,” says Ria Rinne, from the anti-poverty group ACORN. “Evictions due to inability to pay rent through no fault of the tenant are going to whoosh in and I think we’re going to see more [homeless] encampments.”
The NDPs housing critic, and University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell says that informal evictions – where the tenant gets a notice and moves out – have been ongoing through the pandemic.
“The majority of tenants do not want to deal with the expense and stress of the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB),” explained Bell. “So the majority of evictions are informal.”
As for landlords, they are still on the hook for maintenance, property taxes, and other expenses, and don’t qualify for mortgage deferrals, according to the FPRO. However, independent research published by Parkdale Community Legal Services argues that large corporate landlords could forgive rent arrears out of their considerable profits, profits that have continued during the pandemic.
Toronto City Council has taken steps to protect tenants: it has called on the province to stop evictions and all associated hearings, and to provide an emergency rent subsidy for qualifying tenants. In March, the city extended its eviction enforcement moratorium in community housing for three additional months, and approved 15 new affordable housing developments.
The NDP has called for rent support and for the eviction ban to extend 12 months after the pandemic so tenants can rebuild their finances. Bills to this effect were voted down.
“The eviction blitz is on again, even though the pandemic is still raging,” says MPP Bell.
When asked by the Gleaner if they’d consider a rent subsidy program, Matt Carter, spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, pointed to the Canada-Ontario Housing Benefit, launched in partnership with the federal government prior to the pandemic.
“Over 7,500 households have been approved to date for direct rent assistance payments – with more families receiving approvals every day,” says Carter. “In direct response to COVID-19, we invested $765 million through the Social Services Relief Fund, which municipalities can use towards rent banks and utility banks, and to provide emergency loans for those most in need.”
Carter also pointed to Bill 184, the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, which “promotes repayment agreements over evictions,” but tenant advocates roundly denounce it.
They argue the bill gives landlords the right to negotiate a repayment plan, a process normally overseen by the LTB, and if a tenant misses a repayment, under Bill 184, the landlord can evict them without a hearing.
Even the FRPO has proposed a generous rental assistance program called the Ontario Rental Assistance Program (ORAP) which would cover 25% of a qualifying tenant’s rent arrears if the tenant can cover 25%, and the government would cover the remaining 50%.
Under this proposal, the total cost to the government would be $210 million.
FPRO President and CEO Tony Irwin told the Gleaner the Ministry of Housing is “very concerned,” about tenants falling into arrears and asks for regular updates from his organization, who continue to lobby for ORAP.
Another eviction enforcement moratorium was announced by Premier Ford alongside new stay-at home orders on April 7, but as the ban only applies to enforcement, some tenants risk losing their homes as soon as the moratorium is lifted.
Article by Nicole Stoffman for Gleaner Community Press