Toronto Star Editorial: Curbing “renovictions”
Posted July 25, 2022
Posted July 25, 2022
Abi Bond has given Ontario Premier Doug Ford — whose own home is currently for sale at $3.2 million — an opportunity to show just how good a friend of “ordinary folks” he really is.
Bond is executive director of the City of Toronto’s housing secretariat. In a report prepared for city council, she urged an end to an Ontario rule that allows landlords to raise rents by any amount between tenants — a provision that has seen a spike in what have become known as “renovictions.”
Tenants in rent-controlled residences are guaranteed an annual cap on rent increases. But under the provincial policy of “vacancy decontrol,” landlords seeking to cash in on hot rental markets can evict existing tenants in the name of renovations then pump up rents for new ones.
In order to reduce such renovictions, Bond recommends that rent controls be tied to residential units, rather than the tenants who inhabit them.
It is, the Star’s Victoria Gibson reported, the first time city staff have backed such a position. And on the face of it, it seems a sensible proposal.
Acorn Canada has said a housing and affordability crisis was already brewing for renters before the Ford government was first elected, but its changes to the Residential Tenancies Act made matters much worse.
The evictions, moreover, are often aimed at residences housing low-to-moderate-income tenants.
Momentum for the change Bodi recommends grew from a ruling in New Westminster, B.C., that upheld that city’s bid to combat renovictions.
A bylaw there required landlords to provide tenants with temporary accommodation during a renovation and allowed those tenants to return to the renovated unit on the same terms as before.
The bylaw, which was upheld in court after a legal challenge, saw renovictions go from 333 households from 2016-2018 to zero in 2019 when the law came into force.
In Toronto in recent years, applications to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board to evict tenants for renovations or repairs have surged.
Earlier this year, a report by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario suggested there had been a 294-per-cent increase in landlord applications to evict tenants since 2016 in order to convert, demolish or extensively renovate.
In addition to those evictions on record, Bond says many occur informally and go unrecorded. That lack of data hinders good policy-making and Bond suggested that a centralized data base be established to collect information on all rental units across Ontario.
Housing is a delicate commodity — both an investment by the owner and an essential to the occupant. Balancing disparate interests is a never-ending challenge.
But Bondi said Toronto’s volatile rental market has been increasingly marked by “financialization” – homes treated as vehicles for amassing wealth rather than a social need.
Acorn cites studies which suggest one in four home buyers in 2021 already owned at least one property.
In making her proposal, Bond has likely poked a tiger in the ribs with a short stick.
The province’s recently re-elected PC government has argued that imposing rent maximums during tenant turnover could jeopardize development of rental homes. Landlords warn there would be less incentive to maintain and upgrade properties under Bond’s scenario.
But last December, Hamilton approved hiring a consultant to adapt the New Westminster bylaw for that city.
On balance, it seems like an idea whose time has come in Toronto as well.
Source: Toronto Star Editorial