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Global News: As London, Ont. rents soar, tenant advocates look to next council for help - ACORN Canada

Global News: As London, Ont. rents soar, tenant advocates look to next council for help

Posted September 19, 2022

A London, Ont., tenant advocacy group will be keeping a close eye on the municipal election as the city grapples with some of the country’s fastest-growing rents.

The latest national rent report from Rentals.ca found the average rent for condominium and rental apartments in London was $1,979 last month, up 26.5 per cent from August 2021, marking the highest annual rent growth in that category across Canada.

The report, which can be read in full on Rentals.ca’s website, also pegged London’s latest average rent for a one-bedroom unit at $1,783, marking a 36.9 per cent increase from the year before, as well as a 2.5 per cent hike from the month prior.

The local average rent for a two-bedroom unit was placed at $2,112, marking a year-over-year increase of 30.4 per cent and a month-over-month increase of 2.5 per cent.

“It’s not surprising at all,” said Jordan Smith, a leader with tenant advocacy group London ACORN, which released its municipal platform late last month.

The platform calls for more affordable housing, a tax on vacant units, better transit, action on chronic homelessness and a rent grant program to help those swamped with rental arrears.

The top item on the document is a call for a localized version of Toronto’s RentSafeTO, a bylaw enforcement program that aims to keep Toronto landlords in line with apartment building maintenance standards.

The program includes building evaluations at least once every three years, a phone system to track and respond to tenant service requests and a registration fee to be paid by landlords.

“It’s step one for preventing further unnecessary evictions and for giving the citizens of London a safety net and genuine recourse to protect them from abusive landlords,” Smith told Global News.

London ACORN has been calling for a localized version of the program for months now, but the city’s current councillors rejected the idea when it was brought before them in July.

A city staff report at the time also recommended against the idea, adding that an additional 37 bylaw enforcement officers, and a similar number of fire prevention officers, would need to be hired in order to carry out the program locally.

“This should be a time when we are hammering out the details of how this program can be best suited to work for London and instead we’re back to the drawing board,” Smith said.

Lea Donaldson, a local tenant, agrees with London ACORN’s vision for the next city council. The 67-year-old pays about $800 per month at her King Edward Avenue apartment, but says her rent is only so low because she’s been living there for more than 20 years.

In March, Donaldson was served an N5 form by her landlord, which is provided to a tenant to give notice that a landlord intends to evict them due to the tenant interfering with others, causing damage or contributing to overcrowding.

Donaldson says the N5 form was not justified and believes she was targeted because her rent is so low.

“They wanted us all out so that they could renovate the apartment and charge between $1,100 and $1,600 or even higher a month, depending on how many bedrooms,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson also feels trapped in her home and says it’s impossible to find another place in London with the same rent unless she downgrades severely.

“I’m getting my pension and I’ve got enough to live on, but I don’t want it all eaten up by rent.”

The municipal election is just over a month away and in the meantime, Smith says London ACORN will be speaking directly with council hopefuls.

“ACORN is an apolitical association, we can’t officially endorse any candidates, but we are looking to see which of those candidates is most in line with our platform, most interested in getting things done,” Smith added.

Londoners will hit the polls on Oct. 24.

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Article by Andrew Graham for Global News