After 6 year campaign, ACORN Hamilton wins city wide annual proactive inspections of apartments (plus other BIG wins on the Tenant Defence Program)
Posted August 18, 2023
**Updates from the August 17th Emergency and Community Services Committee and August 18th Council**
Yesterday 19 ACORN members and allies delegated to the Emergency and Community Services Committee to demand bold action on the housing crisis facing Hamilton tenants.
At the committee staff reported back from the April 20th Council direction for “recommendations on the full suite of options to halt renovictions in the city.
Thank you to all our allies that have shown up at events and delegated along with us at committee since 2021. And BIG thanks to Councillor Nann, Councillor Kroetsch and Councillor A. Wilson for championing these files this Council term!
Overview of WINS!
Safe Apartment Bylaw
Since 2017 ACORN has been fighting for a city wide proactive apartment inspection program based on RentSafe from the City of Toronto. After a 6 year campaign, City Council has voted unanimously to pass the Safe Apartment Bylaw. The bylaw requires landlords to register with the City of Hamilton and fulfil a comprehensive set of requirements to ensure health and safety in apartment buildings with 6 or more units with 2 or more stories. Staff were directed to develop the policy after the April 2023 motion.
ACORN was able to win the following amendments to the Safe Apartment Bylaw:
- Addition of mailbox repair and maintenance.
- Fines increased from $400 to $600
Registry requirements strengthened to match the Rental Housing Pilot Program and requiring disclosure of number of vacant units.
- New additional section be added directing The Owner or Operator to post information provided by the City of Hamilton in common areas/notice board about tenant rights, eviction prevention, and tenant support resources, information on City air-conditioned locations, and how to access this information in multiple languages
- Oversight of the vital services disruption plan. The plan must be satisfactory to the city.
- While we were unable to win an accelerated timeline for registrations to be accepted in 2024, we did win that evaluations can occur as registrations are received, this bumps evaluations starting to June 2025
- That staff consider submissions from tenants and tenant advocates on activities pertaining to communication and outreach materials; building inspection processes; evaluation criteria and scoring; placement on building of evaluation scores; open data and data tools; and monitoring, evaluation, in program development and implementation
- Not an initial campaign demand but we support the Hamilton Community Benefit’s call for increasing the cost recovery of the program. It was increased from 65% to 87% (raising per unit fee to $62 from $41 – substantially higher than the Toronto and Mississauga programs)
While we remain disappointed with the timeline that will leave thousands of tenants without the first evaluation complete until 2027, we are extremely pleased to see the policy get unanimous support from Council. ACORN members will be back to delegate during the 2024 budget process to ensure full funding to make the program happen!
Tenant Support Program
In 2021 ACORN won an expansion of the Tenant Defence Fund to cover N13 renovictions and demoviction. Since then ACORN has been calling for a substantial increase in funding to the program and improvements to make it easier for tenant groups to get legal representation.
At the committee we won:
- Immediate $150,000 added to the current Tenant Defence Fund Program
- Endorsement of a future $290,000 to the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic to take over the program and expand issues covered to include N12s, T6s + the existing coverage of N13s, AGIs, T5s
- $55,000 to ACORN to build capacity for supporting tenant groups that apply to the Tenant Support Program and proactive tenant rights outreach
Both the HCLC and ACORN work would commence following the 2024 budget process.
Vital Services Bylaw and Property Standards Changes (related to loss of vital services)
- Enhanced definitions and provisions to facilitate enforcement, including expanded definitions for what is adequate/suitable provision of each vital service type and property owner vs. operator;
- Introduction of electronic service as a means of serving an Order. In the situation that transpired at 1083 Main St E, electronic service may have allowed staff to save crucial time vs. serving an Order by other available options.
- Additionally, if the Safe Apartment Buildings By-law is approved, it is likely that electronic service will be an even better option as applicants/licence holders will be required to provide an email where available.
- Expansion of the provision for recovery of costs where the City is responsible for providing a vital service on behalf of the property owner, such as was the case with the provision of water at 1083 Main Street.
ACORN strongly supports the changes to the Vital Services bylaw to better protect tenants during vital services disruptions and hold landlords accountable.
As referenced in the report, the updates were driven from the situation at 1083 Main Street East in downtown Hamilton where a handful of tenants went 86 days without any running water.
ACORN is hopeful that along with the Safe Apartments By-law, updates to the Vital Services / Property Standards By-law will be effective in deterring landlords from withholding repairs to vital services.
Renovations License and Relocation Listings Bylaw
ACORN commends the city’s effort to create a made in Hamilton anti-renoviction by-law, however the proposed bylaw will not do enough to disincentivize renoviction or ensure tenants have the best chance of maintaining their housing. The bylaw needs to be improved to better ensure that tenants understand their rights, are able to obtain temporary housing, and are able to successfully exercise their right of first refusal (are able to move back into their unit once repairs or renovations are complete).
Because of feedback from ACORN, the renovations licence vote and discussion was DEFERRED to the October 19th Emergency and Community Services Committee.
ACORN supports the deferral to allow more time for Councillors to review the policy and propose possible amendments.
A HUGE thank you to all the ACORN members that have worked on this campaign over the years AND a special thanks to all the members over the past week that attended meetings, came to the press conference and delegated!
Wins of this magnitude are not easy to come by, ACORN members should be proud of their hard work and perseverance. While we still face a challenging fight to secure funding in the 2024 budget, the victories at committee are a substantial step forward in City of Hamilton programs and policies to protect and support tenants in keeping their affordable homes and ensuring landlords keep their buildings in good repair.
Lastly, over the next month we will be regrouping and strategizing with our allies on next steps regarding the Renovations License.
Not already an ACORN member or supporter? Please get in touch! Join / support Hamilton’s largest city wide Tenant Union!
Read our full submission to the committee – https://acorncanada.org/