Protect existing affordable housing and building more non-market housing: ACORN’s statement on Ontario’s Housing Affordability Summit

Posted January 19, 2022

Ontario ACORN is an independent community union of low-and-moderate income people with 90,000+ members in 14+ neighbourhood chapters across Ontario! 

  • Ontario tenants need protections and action, not more developer-dictated development plans!  
  • The  housing crisis has gotten worse with dire consequences for low-and-moderate income tenants. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis, existing loopholes and weak protections in the Residential Tenancies Act continue to be a main reason for worsening the housing crisis, resulting in tens of thousands of tenants in a desperate situation. 
  • We continue to see a slew of evictions for a range of reasons and rents skyrocketing pushing tenants out of homes that were once affordable!

ACORN needs the Housing Affordability Summit to not only look beyond supply side housing solutions and discuss issues around tenant protections of the existing housing stock. The situation of low-and-moderate income tenants is at grave risk if some urgent actions are not taken. 

Following is a list of urgent actions that Ontario ACORN members would need to see the Ontario government take to ensure that low-and-moderate income tenants are able to realize their right to housing.

1. Addressing tenants’ rights during COVID

As Omicron rages, tens of thousands of tenants have lost jobs or are facing substantially reduced hours of work. We saw no support from the provincial government when the pandemic started. Tenants were told by the Premier to “choose food over rent” and were left to negotiate with their landlords on their own. ACORN members need:

a. An immediate rent relief program for tenants who are getting evicted or are at risk of eviction. Housing is Health!

b. An immediate eviction ban and a rent freeze which should include a freeze on Above the Guideline Rent increases.

2. Real rent control

In Ontario, when tenants move out, landlords are free to increase rents by as much they want, creating incentive for landlords to push out long term tenants either through neglecting repairs or eviction. Additionally, units built after Nov 2018, landlords can increase rents as much as they want at any time! These massive loopholes in rent control are a huge contributor to skyrocketing rents across the province.

a. Tenants need the province to implement REAL Rent Control. This means introducing vacancy control and applying rent control to ALL rental units

b. Start a Rent Registry in Ontario where tenants can input how much rent they are paying for their unit. This will put information in the public domain on how much rent is being raised to when a new tenant moves into a unit.

3. LTB reform

The Landlord and Tenant Board or the LTB is an eviction factory. The permanent move to remote hearings have been especially devastating for  tenants with no internet/phone, those with language barriers or who are not digitally literate.  Ontario's Justice Accelerated Strategy will only deny justice and not accelerate it. 

a. The government must stop digital hearings, resume LTB Hearings in-person. 

b. Overhaul the LTB as it is an eviction factory. 

4. Stop evictions, renovictions and demovictions

ACORN members are seeing increasing evictions - a report by ACTO shows a staggering 294% increase in landlord applications to evict tenants at the LTB since 2015-2016, to convert, demolish or extensively renovate the rental unit or residential complex. There are several loopholes in the Residential Tenancies Act that allow landlords to take advantage and evict tenants.

a. Review the Residential Tenancies Act to prevent renovictions and demovictions.

b. Like BC, the Ontario government must also ensure that all applications for renovations are applied first at a provincial agency that has the authority to approve/deny renovations. 

c. Ensure that the tenant is given the right of first refusal when the renovations or redevelopment is complete in a unit with the same number of bedrooms at the same rent they were previously paying

d. Mandate landlords to cover moving costs and offer temporary accommodation or rent stabilization during the time it takes to renovate/redevelop the property as seen in Burnaby, BC.

e. Create stronger protections for tenants facing an N12 eviction to prevent them from sudden loss of home.

5. Undo Bill 184

Bill 184 brought changes in the RTA that take away tenants’ rights like: making evictions easier by limiting tenants’ legal defenses and in some cases removing the requirement to hold eviction hearings. Previously, renters were able to raise issues like chronic disrepair at eviction hearings and the Board had discretion to deny eviction in cases where it found the landlord had not met its obligations. Now, tenants need to give notice in writing of these complaints before a hearing occurs. Further, if tenants are unable to fulfill repayment agreements when they are short on rent, landlords do not have to go back to the tribunal for an eviction hearing. Instead, the tribunal could issue a quick eviction order without a hearing. It also allows landlords to chase tenants for payment arrears for upto a year after vacating a unit. 

6. Targeted supply-side development, focusing on low-and-moderate income tenants

a. Target new developments to people in core housing need
Not only is it important to build new housing but it is equally important to target it to people who are in core housing need and earning less than $30,000.  

b. Build purpose-built rentals
In recent years, the growth in housing has only been luxury condos which are out of reach of the majority of tenants who are low-and-moderate income. The commitment by the governments that was seen in the 60s and 70s is nowhere to be seen!

c. Allow Inclusionary Zoning Policies to be applied citywide 
Right now the Inclusionary Zoning requirements are limited to major transit areas i.e. lands within an approximately 500-800 metre radius of a transit station or stop. 

d. Invest in social housing. Ontario has one of the largest social housing wait lists in the country—wait times are lengthy and growing even longer.  There is a wait time of 7-10 years for anyone who wants to access social housing. The Ontario government needs to urgently invest in social housing on an urgent basis.

e. ACORN needs the government to re-invest in creating purpose-built non-market rental housing, enabling co-ops, non-profits, and community housing.

7. Enabling co-ops, non-profits to protect existing affordable housing and addressing climate crisis

While the affordable housing stock is getting destroyed at an increasing pace, actions need to be taken to ensure that whatever is left of the affordable housing stock is protected.

a. ACORN calls on the government to provide policy and financial support for non-profit acquisition programs and new funding programs to support the retrofit and repair of existing aging rental housing stock to protect what critical supply of existing affordable rental housing remains. 

b. Further, measures must be taken to ensure that the cost of retrofits is not passed on to tenants.

 

 

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