Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

Politicians in the Toronto area say they intend to push for the implementation of laws similar to those passed by a city in BC to combat so-called renovations in Ontario.

New Westminster recently won a lawsuit against a statute passed in 2019 that has been credited with eliminating renovations – that is, landlords throw people out under the guise of making renovations to rent only their units next door. far more money.

“We’ve just been waiting for someone to figure out what the key is in unlocking this problem of renovations, especially in this really difficult time around housing, and it seems to have it,” says Paula Fletcher, councilor for Toronto-Danforth, said Friday afternoon.

New Westminster’s bylaw holds landlords of custom-built rentals responsible for the alternative housing for their tenants if they have to leave a unit so it can be renovated and requires them to send the tenant a written offer to move back to their unit or another at. same rate.

The articles of association are backed by fines and the prospect of not getting company licenses renewed if the owners do not comply with them. Landlords can also appeal to the city council if they feel they have a legitimate reason not to accommodate a tenant.

Late last month, a challenge to the statute from a property owner was rejected by the BC Court of Appeal on the grounds that the province’s Community Charter entitles the city to implement and enforce the statute.

In the three years prior to the statute, the city, a Vancouver suburb of more than 70,000, had 333 known renovations, and the number has not had any since 2019. Jessica Bell, housing critic for the Ontario opposition NDP, said renovations have been a “huge problem ”through Toronto, where she represents downtown riding at University-Rosedale.

Between 2015 and 2018, data from Ontario’s landlord and tenant board shows a 149 percent increase in applications for removal of tenants during renovations. From April 2019 to the end of March 2020, LTB received 582 applications to evict tenants for demolition, remodeling, repairs or renovations.

And Bell worries that rising market rental costs will only provide an incentive for further renovations. “We expect, with the continuing boom in house prices, that more tenants will be destroyed,” she said. So she supports the assessment of whether the New Westminster approach can “legally function” in a place like Toronto.

John Mascarin, partner at Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis, says the two provinces are not too different in terrain. He noted that the Ontario Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act are “very similar” in structure to the British Columbia Community Charter. Mascarin said there are actually many parts of Canada with laws similar to those in BC

“I can certainly see why there is interest in this case across the country,” Mascarin said. “Most jurisdictions across Canada are probably quite similar to the BC community charter, so you could probably see these renovation statutes popping up across the country.”

One question, he said, was whether there was anything established in the province’s relationship with municipalities or tenancy laws that could prevent such a bylaw.

But landlords say the measures are not necessary.

President and CEO of the Federation of Rental Housing Providers in Ontario, Tony Irwin, said rules to protect tenants and landlords are adequate.

“The Ontario government made changes, they strengthened tenant protection through Bill 184, and we think those protections are very strong,” Irwin said.

The bill, passed last year, increased the fines for landlords making illegal evictions.

Tenants charge the fines do not hold owners, but Irwin said the fines are significant and can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a company.

Three Toronto City Council members said Friday afternoon that they would support investigating whether the measure could be passed in the city.

Fletcher promised to raise the issue of New Westminster’s approach to an urban housing committee next week. “I’m sending a letter to Planning and Housing next week asking the staff very quickly to report if any of these options could work in Toronto, and then we can start moving in that direction.”

A Toronto version may have to look a little different, Fletcher warned, due to different housing rental rules and landlord requirements. In Toronto, apartment owners with three-plus stories or 10-plus units must currently register through the RentSafeTO program.

But if there was a way to use city power to crack down on renovations, it’s worth investigating as soon as possible, she said.

“The tenants really feel very, very vulnerable (under) renovations,” she said. “I think we’re ready to really look at some concrete actions here.”

Coun. Mike Layton, who represents the same department as Bell, supports the approach. Layton sometimes said that it takes “a brave municipality” to go on limb with an innovative policy for others to follow suit.

“Whatever opportunities or opportunities there are for more responsibility, it’s worth undertaking,” he said.

Coun. Ana Bailao, Mayor John Tory’s advocate for affordable housing, agrees. But she also believes staff have already looked at the rule changes in New Westminster and noted that the CEO of the Toronto Housing Secretariat is a recent transplant from BC, herself.

Bailão said the issue was bigger than just introducing new rules; the task was also to ensure that rules on the books are enforced and that tenants know what rights they already have.

Dania Majid, a lawyer at the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario, believes the responsibility lies with the province.

Landlords who want to make money on renovations are just moving to the next municipality if they can’t do it in Toronto, she said.

“It could have a bigger impact, but ideally we would not see a patchwork approach in Ontario,” she said. “We really need the province to take control of this issue.”

– with a file from Emily Mathieu

Victoria Gibson is a Toronto-based journalist for Star that covers affordable housing. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian Government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: victoriagibson@thestar.ca

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