Posted December 6, 2021
On Monday, November 29th Peel ACORN members deputed at Mississauga City Council’s Budget Committee to convince councillors to pass the Apartment Building Standards and Maintenance Program pilot, otherwise known as Rent Safe. This was the culmination of over 4 years of campaigning for this program that proactively enforces property standards so that landlords are forced to protect the health and safety of tenants and to respect their rights.
Peel ACORN members formally kicked off this campaign at the municipal level in 2019 (pictured below) when they deputed before council to encourage the city to plan a Rent Safe program like RentSafeTO in Toronto. Since then, we have been holding rallies, protests, tenant speak-outs, meetings with councillors and allies. We’ve also been making the public aware of Rent Safe and gathering support both in-person and online, resulting in thousands of supporters agreeing that this program is essential for tenants.
Two years later, due to COVID-19 delays, city staff returned to the project and began doing community engagement on the proposed program. In Summer 2021 Peel ACORN members spoke with staff at these sessions about why this program is essential. Tenants explained the fact they should not need to fight so hard for basic services and for their dignity to be respected by landlords. Tenants are suffering across the city with a lack of repairs and harassment by the landlords–despite paying rent on time every single month, not to mention annual rent increases! Even worse, many tenants are fearful that complaining or reporting their landlord will lead to harassment by the landlord or eviction. The urgency for a Rent Safe program has only grown with each year.
Following these community engagement sessions, Mississauga City staff released their recommendation report in Fall 2021 on the Apartment Building Standards and Maintenance program, otherwise known as Rent Safe. This report made it crystal clear that tenants’ voices were heard. Over 90% of the city’s survey were supportive of the program and only 4% opposed.
When it came time for city council to vote on passing this 5-year pilot program, ACORN members got organized and registered to depute once more to ensure the city and the public knew why this program is essential. Five members shared their stories with city council about why healthy homes are so important. Leader Robin Vanderfleet made it clear that the relationship between tenant and landlord is completely unequal, saying that
Right now, there are only real incentives for tenants. We have to pay high rent on time every month to keep a roof over our heads, even if that roof is leaking, or we can easily be evicted. But landlords do not need to respect tenant needs, be available for tenants or complete their responsibilities without fear of consequences. We want there to be real, enforceable consequences for landlords just like there are for tenants.
More ACORN members followed Robin with similar stories. Stories of tenants like Janice McNamee who lives in a building owned by the multi-billion dollar corporate landlord Capreit. Part of Capreit’s business model is to ignore repairs and harass tenants. This is profitable for them because it pressures tenants to leave their already high-rent units so that Capreit can then do repairs–which were essential when the tenant lived there–and then rent it out to a new tenant at double the rent.
All these stories, coupled with all the ACORN actions over the years, were extremely successful in persuading councillors who were far from in agreement on this program when it was first proposed in 2019. Following the deputations on Nov. 29th, city council voted unanimously to pass Rent Safe.
This new program which will arrive in 2022 will include
- A 5-year pilot program
- Registering landlords of 337 buildings.
- The program is fully-funded through landlord registration, fines, and inspection fees. There will be no added costs to taxpayers or tenants’ rent.
- There will be annual inspections of units to ensure minimum standards are being met.
- Dedicated Rent Safe by-law staff
- Tenant outreach about in-unit problems.
- And much more!
This is a monumental victory for tenants and low-income people all over Mississauga. It shows the power of communities coming together and getting organized.
Mississauga slumlords, your time is over!