Insauga: Hamilton ‘developing the path’ to protecting renters from renovictions

Posted December 10, 2021

Hamilton has taken a step toward bringing in strong protections against renovictions, where landlords have tenants move out while a property is repaired before hiking up the rent.

On Thursday, a staff report presented to the city’s community and emergency services committee included a directive “to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a New Westminster-style bylaw in Hamilton to deal with the issue of “renovictions.’ ” The full report, “Adaptation and Transformation of Services for People Experiencing Homelessness Update 4,” also includes several provisions for temporary shelters through the end of March of 2022.

Rising rents and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated housing affordability issues in Hamilton. There are reportedly about 1,375 people in Hamilton who are unhoused.

The ACORN Hamilton tenant advocacy group first called on the city in August 2020 “to implement strong local legislation” like New Westminister’s bylaw. The British Columbia city adopted the bylaw in 2019. It threatens landlords with the loss of their business licence and fines of up to $1,000 per day if they are caught ‘renovicting’ tenants.

The bylaw has also survived a court challenge from a private company, who sued the city. The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled in May that New Westminster’s law did not contravene the provincial tenancy act.

Any city in Ontario, or another province or territory, that passes a similar bylaw could also be taken to court. The report from Housing Services recommends hiring a consultant to help with the legal legwork.

“Given the challenges around jurisdictional differences among provinces and the legal challenges the bylaw has overcome, staff are recommending a consultant complete a thorough analysis of the options for implementation of an approach similar to the New Westminster, B.C. bylaw in Ontario. This analysis would also review other jurisdictions and levels of success dealing with renovictions through a municipal policy lens. The results of the analysis, with recommendations related to renovictions, will be presented to Council in (the second quarter) of 2022.”

Meantime, the city has budgeted about $3 million to offer shelter for unhoused people this winter. The plans include:

  • Making the former Cathedral Boys School an 80- to 100-bed temporary shelter for women.
  • Adding about 28 temporary emergency shelter beds for men.
  • Creation of a special $500,000 fund to address homelessness experienced by Indigenous community members who are overrepresented in Hamilton’s unhoused population.
  • Grants to to the YWCA Hamilton ($500,000) and Good Shepherd Centre Hamilton ($150,000) for capital renovations. The YWCA operates Carol Anne’s Place as a temporary drop-in program for 22 single unhoused women. Good Shepherd needs the renovations in order to continue to operate Cathedral as a temporary shelter for women.
  • Establishment of a $500,000 fund to support churches and social clubs who are interested in supporting vulnerable residents through the winter months until March 31.

 

***

Article by Nathan Sager for Insauga.com

 

 

Sign up for ACORN's newsletter