City pressed to protect tenants

Committees to send recommendations to council

The push for tenant rights in Toronto gained momentum at a joint meeting of city council’s affordable housing and tenants issues committees.

Councillors heard from tenants, tenant rights groups and advocates for more affordable housing on April 3.  Speakers urged the city to do more for renters.

Meanwhile, representatives of the rental building industry advocated having better incentives for building rentals.

Harvey Cooper
Co-op housing veteran, Harvey Cooper, sees the pendulum swinging in favour of tenant concerns. (Neil Powers/Toronto Observer)

The committees made recommendations to the mayor’s executive committee and city council. Recommendations of the affordable housing committee, chaired by Ward 18 coouncillor Ana Baileo and the tenants issues committee, chaired by Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, include:

  • Writing to Premier Wynne, expressing support for dropping the exemption on rental increases for rental housing built after Nov. 1991.
  • Having the planning department report on inclusionary zoning, an approach requiring a percentage of affordable housing in a development.
  • Asking the province to expedite improvements to eligibility and increase funding for legal aid clinics to promote housing stability.
  • Reaffirm a request to the province for a rent-freeze on buildings that are out of compliance on building inspection related work orders.

Daryl Chong, CEO of the industry group Greater Toronto Apartment Association, told the joint-committees why he believes few rentals were built in the last decade.  “The economics generally don’t work,” Chong said. “It is very difficult [with] the fees, costs, the charges and so on to justify the creation of rental projects.”

Mary Hynes of the Toronto Seniors Forum suggested incentives to add low level housing in the vast parks that surround the towers. “How about community hubs and/or communal facilities for residents, so more co-housing is possible within the apartment towers?”

After speaking to the joint committees, Harvey Cooper, managing director for the Ontario region of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, told the Observer,  “What I see is the pendulum shifting in the right direction,” he says. “I think concrete things are happening and just as important is how much attention is paid to the [rental] issue.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne said in the same week that revisiting the two-tier rent control system is part of the government’s discussion on creating more affordable housing.