Ontario ACORN: Is Ontario Really Strengthening Protections for Tenants?
Posted May 12, 2023
Last month, Ford’s Conservative Government introduced Bill 97: The Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, and other problematic regulatory changes. The Bill makes a number of changes, but most concerning to ACORN members is how little it does to address the affordability crisis impacting renters, and how it will lead to weaker tenant protections!
Ontario ACORN members’ biggest concerns are as follows:
1. Tweaking the renoviction processes will do little to stop renovictions.
Ford’s big solution to the renoviction crisis is to require landlords to have qualified professionals sign off that the renovations require the unit to be vacant, keep tenants informed on the progress of the renovations and to double the fines for landlords who are found to have renovicted a tenant in bad faith. However, this is not enough!
It’s too easy for landlords to hire contractors to say units must be vacant for renovations and ACORN members have yet to hear of a landlord being fined. Higher fines for predatory landlords are great but not if they’re rarely applied. Currently all the onus of enforcement is on tenants. If the Province is truly interested in curbing bad faith renovictions, the Ontario government must 1) follow suit with similar legislation to the renoviction bylaw that was passed in New Westminster, BC and 2) implement REAL rent control through vacancy control.
Vacancy control would tie rent control to the unit instead of the lease, meaning there is a cap on how much landlords can raise rents in between tenants. This would remove the incentive for landlords to push out long-term tenants for unnecessary renovations simply so they can jack up the rent for the next tenant.
2. Municipal rental protection laws will likely be replaced by weaker provincial law.
Bill 97 talks about “standardizing” rental replacement bylaws. Rental replacement bylaws are a tool city can use during the redevelopment of affordable housing or conversion to condos to require developers to replace the affordable units in the new development and offer them back to existing tenants at the same rent. In Toronto alone, by the city’s own data, since the start of the city’s rental replacement policy framework, between 4,000 and 5,000 private market rental units have been protected.
Ontario is losing 20,000 affordable housing units every year. Cities need to be able to implement STRONG rental replacement bylaws to protect existing affordable housing and stop mass tenant displacement. Toronto and Mississauga’s policies are at risk of being watered down, while Hamilton and Ottawa city councils were on their way to passing similar policies.
Bill 97 leaves the door open for developers to have flexibility to replace affordable housing in the new development with units that have the same number of bedrooms but a smaller size. It also hints at restricting what types of rentals these policies can apply to and imposing steps cities must take to introduce rental replacement bylaws – causing delays and barriers for cities wanting to stop the loss of affordable housing. Finally, the Bill mentions giving cities the power to require developers provide compensation. Without more information, ACORN members are deeply concerned that this could be used as a pathway for landlords to buy out tenants from their homes without needing to replace the affordable unit and honour tenants’ right of first refusal.
3. Air-conditioning units in apartments will now enable landlord to increase rents.
Tenants’ apartments are getting hotter because of the climate crisis and can lead to extreme health issues. Deaths due to extreme heat are on the rise so having air conditioning is no longer about comfort, it’s about health. Yet Bill 97 will allow landlords to gouge tenants who have air conditioning by increasing their rent based on the energy star rating of their unit or in some cases, just an estimate. The rent increase is not subject to the annual guideline that’s capped at 2.5%.
4. More adjudicators at the LTB will only speed up evictions – this doesn’t help tenants.
Without a complete overhaul of the LTB system, investments in the LTB will only result in processing evictions faster. A Globe and Mail investigation in 2019 found that the LTB processes roughly 70,000 landlord applications to the LTB every year, 90% of which are for evictions.
Moreover, hiring more new adjudicators will not fix the dysfunction or resolve the hearing backlog at the LTB. The LTB already received money to hire more adjudicators to tackle the backlog and it has not worked. The number of adjudicators is not the issue. Rather, LTB processes have dramatically slowed because of their pivot to a remote service model which has had devastating impacts on tenants.
Ontario ACORN is demanding the province complete a full review of the LTB as it has become an eviction factory, stop digital hearings and resume LTB Hearings in-person. The remote hearings have been especially devastating for tenants with no internet/phone, those with language barriers or who are not digitally literate.
5. Building expensive low-density homes on protected farmland is bad for the environment and does nothing for affordability
The province’s new provincial planning statement makes it easier for cities to expand their urban boundaries to allow development on protected greenspace and farmland. Not only is this bad for the environment, but simply building expensive housing (that won’t be subject to rent control) farther away from services and public transit, will not help tenants.
Further it would eliminate important tools that identify and create truly affordable housing:
- Abandons definitions for “affordable” housing and “low/moderate income households”.
- Removes “rooming houses” from definition of housing options.
How to submit your feedback to the province:
The province is seeking feedback on the following three regulations. You can click on each of the regulations to submit a response:
1. Rental replacement bylaw
2. Protect Tenants from Bad Faith Renovation Evictions
3. Increase Maximum Fines for Offences Under the Residential Tenancies Act
4. Rental Rules Related to Air Conditioning