Posted June 7, 2016
From the Toronto Star:
Toronto council to look at licensing apartment buildings
A proposal to move ahead with a licensing system for Toronto apartment buildings will be considered by council this week after vigorous lobbying by tenant advocates who support the plan and landlord opponents who don’t.
The proposed rules would apply to rental buildings that have 10 or more units or are a minimum three stories high. The system would include annual inspections and require landlords to make sure maintenance plans are in place.
City council is not being asked to create a landlord licensing system now but to vote on holding public consultations this fall.
Natalie Hundt, a spokesperson for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), says landlord licensing is urgently needed because too many tenants are being forced to live in unsafe, substandard housing.
“This would have some real consequences for landlords” who fail to comply, Hundt said Monday.
Daryl Chong, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association (GTAA), said a city staff report shows private sector apartments are in 92 per cent in compliance with city rules, which “hardly screams of a big problem.”
The apartment association, which is calling for enhancements to the existing, complaints-based Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Enforcement Program, has distributed door-hangers and started an online petition asking tenants to “tell your city councillors and the mayor to reject the city hall apartment tax.”
Councillor Josh Matlow will be on his feet urging councillors not to be “scared into buckling to the landlord lobby’s campaign of misinformation.”
There is no “apartment tax,” he said, but a licensing fee, between $12 and $15 per unit, possibly lower, to be paid for by landlords, not renters.
“I believe the majority of councillors want to stand up for tenants and advocate for their quality of life and ensure they have safe, healthy, and respectful homes,” Matlow, chair of the city’s tenant issues advisory committee, said Monday.
But Matlow said he’s heard a council colleague will introduce a motion “to offer a solution to councillors who don’t want to be seen as anti-tenant.” It will call for more resources to be put into the audit enforcement program and “will give councillors a way to put in their newsletters that they’ve done something for tenants.”
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong says while the licensing proposal is “well-intentioned,” he believes it’s “a bad piece of public policy. Ultimately, it will end up costing apartment dwellers a lot of money.”
ACORN’s Hundt said Minnan-Wong is “horribly misinformed” because provincial laws would prevent those costs from being pushed onto renters.
She urged Mayor John Tory to support moving the landlord licensing proposal to the next stage.
“There is an opportunity for him to create a legacy for himself. Fifty per cent of the voting population are tenants and they know that they city needs landlord licensing to protect them.”
Amanda Galbraith, the mayor’s director of communications, wrote in email Monday that the mayor believes tenants in this city need to be protected.
“He will work with his council colleagues to best protect the interests of tenants.”
Article by Betsy Powell for the Toronto Star