Code Red: Ontario developing plan to control "unfair" hikes in rent
The Liberals will look at reforming "unfair rises in rental costs," as New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns plans to introduce a private member's bill Monday to curb rental hikes.
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The province will expand rent control, Ontario’s Housing Minister told Metro on Thursday.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that so many Ontarians are faced with housing costs that are rising dramatically,” said Chris Ballard, who is also the minister responsible for the poverty reduction strategy.
The comments come as the discussion around housing in Toronto reaches a fever pitch.
As reported by Metro, calls for rent control have been mounting from city hall and the NDP in the face of a very low vacancy rate and soaring rents.
More on Metro's Code Red series:
The vacancy rate for available apartments in Toronto is 1.3 per cent, and the average rent is $1,233, up 3.1 per cent from 2015, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Ballard said his staff are developing a plan to address unfair rent increases as part of an ongoing review of the Residential Tenancies Act.
He declined to comment on whether this would include scrapping legislation that exempts buildings built after 1991 from limits on rent increase, or put a timeframe on changes.
That legislation was originally introduced in the 1990s to provide an incentive for developers to build rental housing, but has come under fire in Toronto’s housing market for leaving tenants vulnerable to yearly rent hikes of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.
“Clearly that 1991 exemption is not legislation that’s working today,” Ballard said.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns announced he will introduce a private member’s bill on Monday to end the 1991 exemption.
That part of the Residential Tenancies Act allows landlords to raise rents without any cap on buildings built after 1991.
For all other buildings the province sets yearly guidelines for rent increases, based on factors like the rate of inflation.
Tabuns, the MPP for Toronto Danforth, said he’s been hearing more and more from tenants about huge rent increases, and that some have to move out because they just can’t afford the hikes.
“They’re put in a very tough situation,” he told Metro.
“I don’t think there should be second-class tenants here in Ontario, everyone should have the same protection.”
Private member’s bills rarely pass. There have been at least two other private member bills put forward to scrap the same loophole since 2011.
“You have investor, landlord, and developer interests who really don’t want their ability to make a profit constrained in any way,” Tabuns said.
Toronto councillors Josh Matlow and Ana Bailão have also called on the province to look at expanding rent control.
Ranziba Nehrin, a tenant who was profiled in Metro’s coverage of rent control this week, said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the new developments.
“I think it’s a great first step, it’s definitely not the last,” she said.
“Housing is a more complex issue than just renters and rent control, so if we can start by tackling this first edge into the issue, then we can start working for people across the housing spectrum,” she said.
Nehrin hopes change can come as quickly as some of the rental increases tenants face.
“The issue is happening every single day to thousands of people in the city,” she said.